Valentine: Obamacare tests Constitution

Friday, November 6, 2009

Obamacare may come down to a simple Constitutional question: Can the federal government mandate that you buy insurance? Back in '94 when Hillarycare was all the buzz, the Congressional Budget Office said requiring citizens to buy insurance "would be an unprecedented form of federal action." They went on to say that "the government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States."

Clearly forcing us to buy health insurance is unconstitutional but the Constitution hasn't gotten in the way of much of what this administration has done. The stimulus package is on shaky constitutional ground and certainly so were the bank and auto bailouts. However, it's one thing to see your tax dollars wasted. It's another thing entirely to threaten you with jail time if you don't buy something the government wants you to buy. That's not sitting well with a lot of Americans.

Some might argue that it's no different than requiring auto insurance. The differences are as wide as a junk yard full of clunkers. First of all, driving is a privilege and not a right; therefore, requiring you to buy auto insurance is not dissimilar from requiring you to buy a driver's license.

Secondly, that mandate comes from the states and not the federal government. It might be argued that the states then could require health insurance; still a hard hurdle to jump, but it certainly is not under the authority of the federal government.

Think of the Constitution as a contract, which it essentially is, between the federal government and the states. Contract lawyers will tell you that what is not included is known to be excluded. In other words, if it ain't in the Constitution it ain't under the authority of the federal government. The Tenth Amendment makes this point very clear. This is one of the reasons why states have insurance departments and insurance commissioners. Insurance is a state issue, not a federal one.

Which brings us to the broader point. Not only is requiring health insurance unconstitutional, the whole "public-option" approach is, too. Medicare is less an insurance plan than a retirement plan. Ostensibly, we have been socking away money in our Medicare accounts for a time when we're no longer working and no longer covered by our employer's health insurance plan. In other words, we've paid up front for the services we get, unlike typical insurance where you pay a monthly premium and the insurance company assumes your risk.

Medicaid is a program designed for the poor. Like Social Security, it was never designed to be a "Cadillac plan." It was intended to provide the poor with basic medical help. There are, indeed, Cadillac plans out there. Primarily, they're paid for by corporations and now Obama and the Democrats want to tax those plans to pay for their unconstitutional healthcare program. That is a blatant redistribution of wealth.

How fair is it that one person has a Cadillac plan and another has a Yugo plan? The same as somebody driving a Cadillac and somebody else driving a Yugo. There is no guarantee of success in this country. We have the right to pursue happiness, not have it paid for by the government.

Some people eat steak while some eat hamburger. Some live in mansions, some in shacks. Health insurance is a product like any other. If you're poor then we'll provide for you. Otherwise, it's up to each of us individually to take care of that need.

And if we decide not to purchase insurance, it's none of the government's business.