Friday, June 29, 2012

Health insurance mandate survives

What is surprising in Thursday's health care decision from the Supreme Court is Chief Justice John Roberts' key role in it. He became he swing vote, cobbling together a five-vote majority on the premise that the penalties in the health care bill are actually a tax, and Congress has full authority to impose a tax.

The health insurance mandate, which at least four justices were ready to forbid, had never bothered me. The mandate did not seem to be breaking new ground. After all, states have statutory mandates for car insurance and other matters. Congress has frequently imposed mandates on states for a variety of causes. And a federal mandate has been in effect for 75 years requiring workers to contribute to Social Security. A similar mandate is required to (partly) fund Medicare.

Seen in this light, the court's decision is not so significant.

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