Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why the Personal Mandate to Buy Health Insurance Is Unprecedented and Unconstitutional

A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States. An individual mandate would have two features that, in combination, would make it unique. First, it would impose a duty on individuals as members of society. Second, it would require people to purchase a specific service that would be heavily regulated by the federal government.[1] This statement from a 1994 Congressional Budget Office Memorandum remains true today. Yet, all of the leading House and Senate health-care reform bills being debated in Congress require Americans to either secure or purchase health insurance with a particular threshold of coverage, estimated by CBO to cost up to $15,000 per year for a typical family.[2] This personal mandate to enter into a contract with a private health insurance company is enforced through civil and criminal tax penalties in section 501 of the House bill[3] and with a freestanding mandate and equally questionable civil tax penalties in sections 501 and 513 of the pending Senate bill.[4] more

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