The Government Health Care Mandate May Set Precedence for Future Mandates

The government acquisition of the healt hcare system was a lengthy piece of legislation designed to help the uninsured gain affordable health insurance. The bill organizes a system by which people without health insurance can buy with assistance from the federal government. Candidate Obama promised health insurance would be available to all legal inhabitants of the United States and in this fact President Obama has kept his promise. The mandate goes beyond providing available insurance. It requires insurance. Any person that does not purchase a government approved insurance plan will be subject to a fine and the Internal Revenue Service will have authority to collect the fine. People will be required to provide proof of insurance on their tax forms. Congress argues that the commerce clause in the Constitution gives the government authority to require citizens and legal occupants to buy a product.

Whether the federal government has the authority under the commerce clause will be tested. Representatives of fourteen states have joined together to file suit against the health care mandate and the suit will be decided in the Supreme Court. More are adding their states to the list. In some of the states the Governor has been pitted against the Attorney General claiming Republicans politically motivate the lawsuits. In addition to the lawsuits, 37 state legislatures have passed or are in the process of passing laws against the federal mandate. It is unlikely the states will have the power against a federal law as first tested in the early 1800s during the Nullification Crisis. States do not have the authority to nullify a federal law. The democratic representatives should support the lawsuits and welcome the opportunity to prove the government does have authority for a mandate. The Supreme Court decision will set a new precedence.

The federal government may realize that costs for health care does not meet budget neutrality and look for ways to reduce costs. Costs reductions could come in the form of a new healthier lifestyles bill, which could mandate better foods such as berries (high in antioxidants), daily vitamins and regular exercise. The tax form would add the proof of a fitness club line right after the proof of insurance line. Certainly the costs of medical treatment would decline when all people live healthier lifestyles. Once the Supreme Court sets a new precedence in favor of the mandate, present and future Congresses can use it.

The commerce clause simply states that Congress has the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the states and with Indian tribes. How does this clause translate from regulating commerce to mandating the purchase of a product? The passing of health care legislation was also justified using the car insurance example. People who drive are required to have insurance to protect other drivers. But, people are not required to drive. Those of driving age may choose not to drive while others may loose the privilege. They are not required to have car insurance.

Whatever decision the Supreme Court may determine will have bearing in the future. Those supporting the health care bill and pending mandate may or may not be as supportive when Congress legislates similar mandates.