Health Care Mandates and Shopping Lists

Well, the legal debate over Obamacare before the Supreme Court is getting interesting. Concerning the individual mandate that would require nearly everyone to buy medical insurance, Justice Scalia sees a day when the federal government could force everyone to buy broccoli. Ouch. That sounds like a scenario right out of The Hunger Games.

No wonder the individual mandate is hard for conservative justices — and most conservatives, I guess — to swallow.

Yet I’ll admit that I find the whole matter somewhat hard to understand. Let’s see. The federal government can compel me to pay taxes, register for the draft, and pay into Medicare and Social Security. But if I don’t want health insurance, even knowing that at some point I will need the services of a doctor or will most likely spend some quality time in a hospital or emergency room, then so be it. My bad, if something happens. And pass the bill to someone else. [Note to self: Couldn’t we figure out an affordable universal health care system so everyone would have some level of protection? A lot of people only a few months older than me seem to like Medicare.]

Anyway, since I can’t sort this out, I’ll turn to an article in WaPo, “Why the health-care law might stand at the Supreme Court“:

This much is clear after two hours of Supreme Court arguments over the constitutionality of the individual mandate, which I was in the room to hear: The president’s health-care bill won’t rise or fall on a question of law, but on how the majority of justices define the health-care market.

The mandate requires all individuals above a certain income level to obtain health-care coverage. The National Federation of Independent Business and 26 states challenged the mandate as unconstitutional, arguing that Congress does not have the power to force individuals to buy private products. The government, for example, has the power to regulate the kind of muffler your car has, but it cannot force you to buy a car in the first place. Health-care should be no different — a point made forcefully at various times by Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito. If the government can mandate the purchase of health care, Scalia said, “what else can’t it do?”

Well, good thing the government has a legal expert to explain all this. Or maybe not. Appears that Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. had a tough day yesterday as he met with the Supremes. Here’s from Mother Jones, “Obamacare’s Supreme Court Disaster“:

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. should be grateful to the Supreme Court for refusing to allow cameras in the courtroom, because his defense of Obamacare on Tuesday may go down as one of the most spectacular flameouts in the history of the court.

Stepping up to the podium, Verrilli stammered as he began his argument. He coughed, he cleared his throat, he took a drink of water. And that was before he even finished the first part of his argument. Sounding less like a world-class lawyer and more like a teenager giving an oral presentation for the first time, Verrilli delivered a rambling, apprehensive legal defense of liberalism’s biggest domestic accomplishment since the 1960s—and one that may well have doubled as its eulogy.

Wow. And you thought you had a bad day at the office yesterday.

And the Mother Jones article raises a good point. Why not televise these important oral arguments before the court? It would be great reality TV. If we as a nation are able to sit through weeks of The Bachelor waiting to see who will get a rose, shouldn’t we have the opportunity to watch three days of legal debate to see who is going to get the shaft?

As it stands now, all we can do is join in the navel-gazing, trying to figure out what Justices Roberts and Kennedy are thinking. [Fortunately for those who have to bring clarity to the navel-gazing, Justice Thomas doesn’t appear to think about anything.]

OK. I have other fish in the skillet today.

And since I joined the ranks of the quasi-retired, I find that a part of most days is now spent grocery shopping. Here my wife gives me a list filled with mandates: milk, butter, eggs and so on.

Today I’m checking the list for broccoli.

Even in my dotage, I can only be pushed so far.


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