FEBRUARY 28, 2012 2:09PM

There Is No Healthcare Mandate, It Can’t Be Unconstitutional

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A recent USA Today / Gallup poll reveals that 72% of voting Americans believe the healthcare mandate is unconstitutional. Imagine how surprised they’ll be when they find out there isn’t one.

Or that there *was* a mandate, but the Obama Administration actually alleviated it.

Or that the entire law was pitched by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank designed to “to formulate and promote conservative policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, [and] individual freedom.” In a paper published in 1989.   

Most Americans don’t even know what’s IN the Affordable Care Act (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/americans-still-dont-know-whats-in-the-health-reform-law-they-may-not-care-either/2011/11/29/gIQAh5Z89N_blog.html), and spineless Democrats in the House and Senate have taken a vow of silence on the whole thing, so none of this misinformation is surprising. But it’s worthwhile to clear a few things up, for those who are curious.

First of all, no one has to purchase health insurance. It sounds like they do, because everyone talks about a “health insurance mandate” and whether or not the Supreme Court will strike it down, or President Romney will repeal it, or the whole country will be transformed into New Leningrad and sink into the sea.

If you don’t want to have insurance, you don’t have to have it. However, because of a law passed in 1986 – signed by Ronald Reagan – called the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (https://www.cms.gov/EMTALA/), hospitals are required to give you emergency care. Similar to many laws passed in the 1980s, this was completely unpaid for.

It was, to borrow a phrase, an unfunded mandate.

Like wars, schools, contracts with Lockheed Martin, and subsidies to oil companies, other people’s healthcare is something you have to pay for whether you want to or not. It’s called “paying taxes.” Which has been constitutional since the Constitution itself was ratified (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1), and taxes were first levied during the war of 1812.

This isn’t new.

So the Obama Administration took a page from the Heritage Foundation’s policy briefing (actually, 125 pages from it) and asked citizens to take responsibility for their own healthcare by purchasing insurance. And if you don’t want to, just pay the associated taxes so that the rest of us aren’t carrying you along.

The Heritage Foundation:

“Every citizen of the US must, by law, be enrolled in an adequate health care plan to cover major health care costs… in return for the government’s accepting an obligation to devise a market-based system guaranteeing access to care and protecting all families from financial distress due to the cost of an illness, each individual must agree to obtain a minimum level of protection.

“American with sufficient means would no longer be able to be “free riders” on society by avoiding sensible health insurance expenditures and relying on others to pay for care in an emergency… If the family did not enroll in a plan… a fine might be imposed.”

(A National Health Care System For America, Page 51 http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/1989/a-national-health-system-for-america )

The Heritage Foundation goes on to state that the government “should establish basic regulations to ensure that all plans comply with the broad objectives of the national system,” like not denying people healthcare after they’ve bought insurance, and that it should help pay for plans for low-income Americans.

And if you don’t buy insurance, you pay a fine. Like I do when I park in the wrong place or drive on the sidewalk.

But that doesn’t make it unconstitutional.

It actually makes it fair. It removes the unfunded mandate that we’ve all been paying up until now.

Just don’t expect anyone else to know it.

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Very complicated. And it will continue to be an issue. Health care is just too expensive.... Trying to unravel is harder than making something right in the first place. No easy answer. No easy cure.