Founding Father signed health insurance mandate into law
by desmoinesdem, Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 10:24:49 AM EDT
State attorneys general have filed two federal lawsuits challenging the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, which President Barack Obama signed into law last week. Those lawsuits look like pure political posturing to me, given the well-established Congressional powers to regulate interstate commerce and taxation.
It turns out that precedent for a health insurance mandate is much older than the 1930s Supreme Court rulings on the Commerce Clause. Thanks to Paul J. O'Rourke for the history lesson:
In July, 1798, Congress passed, and President John Adams signed into law “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen,” authorizing the creation of a marine hospital service, and mandating privately employed sailors to purchase healthcare insurance.
This legislation also created America’s first payroll tax, as a ship’s owner was required to deduct 20 cents from each sailor’s monthly pay and forward those receipts to the service, which in turn provided injured sailors hospital care. Failure to pay or account properly was discouraged by requiring a law violating owner or ship's captain to pay a 100 dollar fine.
This historical fact demolishes claims of “unprecedented” and "The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty...”
Perhaps these somewhat incompetent attorneys general might wish to amend their lawsuits to conform to the 1798 precedent, and demand that the mandate and fines be linked to implementing a federal single payer healthcare insurance plan.
O'Rourke posted the full text of the 1798 legislation as well.
I'm not one to claim American's "Founding Fathers" could do no wrong. After all, President Adams also signed the Sedition Act, which violated the First Amendment. But Republican "strict constructionists" say we should interpret the constitution only as 18th-century Americans would have understood it. Some claim judges should cite only 18th-century sources when interpreting the constitution. Well, Congress enacted and the president signed a health insurance mandate less than a decade after the U.S. Constitution went into effect.
I don't expect these facts to affect Republican rhetoric about health insurance reform. Thankfully, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is not wasting our state's money on this frivolous lawsuit. So far I haven't heard any Republicans demand his impeachment, as some GOP legislators are doing in Georgia.