Skip to main content

ObamaCare and the individual mandate

Ben and I wrestle with the lawsuit against the health reform bill in our Scripps Howard column this week. My take:

Let's be clear: Conservatives didn't think the individual mandate was unconstitutional in the 1990s -- when the conservative Heritage Foundation came up with the idea, then pitched it as an alternative to President Bill Clinton's health proposals. No Tea Partiers shouted about "tyranny" just a few years ago, when GOP Gov. Mitt Romney made the requirement a centerpiece of Massachusetts' health law.

While some conservatives sincerely see the mandate as an intolerable infringement upon American freedom, it's not unreasonable to think the GOP is cynically moving the goalposts in its never-ending opposition to Democratic policy ideas -- even if those ideas were originally Republican.

The irony: The mandate was an effort to leave health insurance in the hands of private industry and avoid a true government takeover of the health care system.

During the 2009 debate, after all, many Republicans agreed reform should include a rule that insurance companies couldn't deny coverage to customers with pre-existing conditions. But that left open the likelihood people would wait to get sick before buying insurance -- saddling companies with the costs of sick patients without enough healthy customers to help pay the way. That would've driven the companies into bankruptcy and, in all likelihood, triggered the rise of a government-run "socialized" health insurance system.

So there are good policy reasons for the individual mandate. But as a political matter, many liberals recognize that the mandate is a particularly ugly way to make the sausage of health insurance reform -- more likely to trigger protests against the bill rather than make Americans grateful for the welfare state.

There less-burdensome ways to replace the individual mandate. Insurers could offer financial incentives for early sign-up and penalties for late arrivals, the way parts of Medicare work now. Other, market-friendly ideas abound. But never fear: Republicans would certainly oppose those ideas, too. They always do.



Popular posts from this blog


I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Liberals: We're overthinking this. Hillary didn't lose. This is what it should mean.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth. We already know the Electoral College can produce undemocratic results, but what we don't know is why — aside from how it serves entrenched interests — it benefits the American people to have their preference for national executive overturned because of archaic rules designed, in part, to protect the institution of slavery. 

A form of choosing the national leader that — as has happened in …

I'm not cutting off my pro-Trump friends

Here and there on Facebook, I've seen a few of my friends declare they no longer wish the friendship of Trump supporters — and vowing to cut them out of their social media lives entirely.

I'm not going to do that.

To cut ourselves off from people who have made what we think was a grievous error in their vote is to give up on persuading them, to give up on understanding why they voted, to give up on understanding them in any but the most cartoonish stereotypes.

As a matter of idealism, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on democracy. As a matter of tactics, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on ever again winning in a democratic process.

And as a long-term issues, confining ourselves to echo chambers is part of our national problem.

Don't get me wrong: I expect a Trumpian presidency is a disaster, particularly for people of color. And in total honesty: My own relationships have been tested by this campaign season. There's probably some damage…