About that mandate

With almost hourly news updates about who might and who might not vote for the latest version of the health care reform bill, readers may have missed this health care news:

If you live in Idaho today, or Virginia very soon, you will not have to honor any federal-government mandate to obtain health insurance — at least according to those state governments. How the federal courts will rule on this fight is anybody’s guess.

The state legislatures in both Idaho and Virginia have each passed bills saying residents of their states cannot be forced purchase health insurance if they don’t want, regardless of what Congress passes. Idaho Gov. “Butch” Otter signed his state’s legislation this week. Gov. Bob McDonnell is expected to sign Virginia’s any day. Similar legislation has been introduced in 22 other states.

Proponents of health care reform say it’s critical that everyone have health insurance or the costs created by the uninsured — such as with trips to the emergency room for relatively mild ailments — will continue to drive prices upward.

But opponents, including leading Republicans such as Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, say it is unconstitutional. The federal government has no authority to force individuals to purchase something they don’t want to buy, they say.

Funny, the Republicans didn’t look as askance at the idea back when the first President Bush was proposing it, almost two decades ago. Then it was seen as a more palatable idea than forcing all employers to provide insurance for their workers.

History aside, we wonder why this has to be such a big fight. Seems like Congress could just do what it does with so many other activities it wants to encourage — offer a tax incentive.

Instead of saying everyone must obtain health insurance and those who don’t will have to pay a hefty fine, Congress could decide that no one is required to buy insurance, but those who do will receive a tax break.

But, if the current health care reform bill is passed, there will be an individual mandate. There also will be a multitude of legal battles over its constitutionality.


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