Is the Individual Mandate Constitutional?

Court Gavel

Later this month, the United States Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments that allege the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. As the days draw closer to these hearings, just about every proponent and opponent to this law are crawling out from the woodworks. From scholars to attorneys, everyone is weighing in with their opinion in what most likely will be one of the largest single decisions that the Supreme Court will weigh in on in our lifetime.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act are focusing much of their attention on the individual mandate. They are of the opinion that the government can’t compel you to purchase any product or service. Additionally, these opponents to health care reform also claim that allowing this law to go into effect would set a dangerous precedent for future laws to infringe on the rights of Americans. There are many comparisons being tossed about in the media that compare forced participation in a national health insurance program to the government forcing people to eat broccoli, peanuts and even macadamia nuts. Surely, some people involved in this debate are not forced to eat nuts but rather listen to the nuts babble.

Is the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act constitutional? Can our government force us to buy health insurance? These are the questions the Supreme Court will be called upon to answer. But there’s one problem. We already are forced to buy health insurance. Even though government does not call it “health insurance,” Medicare is not a voluntary health care program. If you work, you must pay into it whether you are an employee, small business owner or corporate executive.

In all of the chatter about the individual mandate, not one single professor or attorney has yet to compare this individual mandate to the funding requirement of Medicare. Granted, you do not have to pay into Medicare. The way to avoid Medicare payments is to not work. Since there is no real “free ride” in the United States, just about everyone has to work at one point or another in their life. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to assume that there is no way that people can avoid making mandatory Medicare payments.

Should the opponents of health care reform be successful in their efforts to deem the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, on the grounds of the individual mandate requirement, I personally would like to see the opt-out form for Medicare made available to all. Since the United States already uses an individual mandate for Medicare, arguing that the government has no authority to require people to buy something is moot. Medicare is funded solely by an individual mandate that requires working men, women and children to fund this national health care program for senior citizens.