As health care legislation continues to evolve and be debated in the government, one key issue is the administration’s desire to force health coverage on Americans. The administration assumes that compulsory coverage is fair game, and would put our country one step closer to universal healthcare, but it faces one major impediment – the United States Constitution.
As George Will notes in his Washington Post Op-Ed, the idea of mandatory coverage is no different than compulsory exercise, and one could wager that forced exercise would face a severe backlash from weary Americans. Supporters of the mandate argue that Congress can impose such legislation under its power to regulate interstate commerce, in which Congress can regulate activities deemed to have economic consequences when it believes it is “necessary and proper.”
This is a very slippery slope because, as Will states, “if any activity, or inactivity, can be declared to have economic consequences, then anything can be regulated – or required.” As a result, the Constitution is largely nullified by Congress’s estimates of what is “necessary and proper” for the regulation of commerce, and while Congress is still subject to the oversight of the Supreme Court, the Court tends to uphold what Congress declares necessary.
Opponents to the mandate argue that Congress, under the Constitution, is not authorized to forbid someone from not making a commercial transaction, in this case, health insurance. According to Senator Orrin Hatch, “Congress can regulate commercial activities in which people choose to engage, but cannot require that they engage in those commercial activities.” He also notes that if Congress can force people to make particular purchases to help the economy, then there was no need for the government program Cash for Clunkers. Instead, Congress could have just ordered people to buy cars.
While no one argues against the importance of Americans having health coverage, forcing people to buy it—and taxing them if they don’t—is a gross misuse of legislative powers and a frightening example of the government pursuing a goal without regard to personal liberties.