Founding Father signed health insurance mandate into law

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.

Tags: health care reform, health insurance reform, individual mandate, constitution (all tags)



Good research DD.

I do not take the constitutional argument seriously, although this might help with Scalia's vote if it ever gets that far.

by TomP 2010-03-29 11:17AM | 1 recs

Very good research indeed. It sort of cuts the already wobbly constitutional challenge off at the knees.

We need more diaries like this.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-03-29 11:51AM | 0 recs
I trust someone checked

that it wasn't overturned in 1809 by the Courts.






by John DE 2010-03-29 11:32AM | 0 recs
Opponents of Mandate has Uphill Battle

The individual mandate is written as a 2.5% tax on AGI up to the maximum penalty amount. Thus, defenders of the individual mandate will argue that its an income tax permitted by the 16th Amendment. The opponents will have to argue that its really not an income tax. That could be a tough argument to make even with the current conservative Supreme Court. As for the other provisions in HCR, it will be tough to argue that health insurance doesn't constitute interstate commerce. Moreover, the state opt out provision would make it tough to overrule it on Tenth Amendment grounds.

However, I disagree that the 1798 Act was an individual mandate to purchase health insurance. It was an authorization to tax certain people so that they could have discounted services at hospitals funded by the government.

Finally, George Washington won the first election and he got to pick the first nine supreme court justices. That's why Alexander Hamilton's point of view about the constitution won over Jefferson's point of view of the constitution. The general welfare clause was ruled to give the govt. broad tax and spend authority and Congress was not limited to what was listed in Article 1, sec. 8 of the Constitution.

by Zzyzzy 2010-03-29 12:25PM | 0 recs
RE: Actually, there were less than nine justices

I forgot that there were less than nine supreme court justices in the beginning. Congress expanded the Supreme Court to nine justices many years later.

by Zzyzzy 2010-03-29 12:28PM | 0 recs
RE: Opponents of Mandate has Uphill Battle

Sounds like a mandate to me. Private sailors didn't have the option of declining the discounted services at hospitals--they couldn't keep all the money in their paychecks and promise to pay out of pocket if they became ill. They were required to have money deducted from their paycheck to buy into this system.

I agree with the first part of your comment.

by desmoinesdem 2010-03-29 04:45PM | 0 recs
RE: Opponents of Mandate has Uphill Battle

To follow your line of logic then, the Federal Government could use the same tax and penalty enforcement structure to require people to purchase Life Insurance, Long-Term Care Insurance, Flood Insurance, etc. Correct? 

by tpeichel 2010-03-29 06:11PM | 0 recs
RE: Opponents of Mandate has Uphill Battle

I believe Flood Insurance is indeed mandatory if you live in a particular area:

The land area covered by the floodwaters of the base flood is the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) on NFIP maps. The SFHA is the area where the NFIP's floodplain management regulations must be enforced and the area where the mandatory purchase of flood insurance applies. The SFHA includes Zones A, AO, AH, A1-30, AE, A99, AR, AR/A1-30, AR/AE, AR/AO, AR/AH, AR/A, VO, V1-30, VE, and V.

by vecky 2010-03-29 06:35PM | 0 recs
RE: Opponents of Mandate has Uphill Battle

The mandatory purchase law directed the Federal
agency lender regulators and Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) to develop and adopt regulations requiring lenders subject to their jurisdiction not to make, increase, renew,or extend any loan on applicable property unless flood insurance is purchased and maintained to protect that property securing loans in high flood risk areas.


The authority of FEMA is limited to administering the NFIP, which enables property owners in participating communities to purchase federally backed flood insurance. FEMA does not have statutory responsibility for enforcing the mandate to purchase flood insurance.;jsessionid=50CF630A96182D970624D1ABCBEE5189.WorkerLibrary?type=publishedFile&file=mandpurch2007.pdf&fileid=cc1e4600-5c99-11dc-9950-000bdba87d5b
by QTG 2010-03-30 06:28AM | 0 recs
RE: Opponents of Mandate has Uphill Battle

Very appropriate in my opinion, because the government is regulating an activity. If you purchase a home you must have home insurance. If you purchase a home in a flood plain you also need flood insurance. 

It would be kind of silly to have a blanket mandate for all people to purchase flood insurance, including the guy who lives in an apartment at the top of a mountain, no? 

How about this?

After a string of cartel-related violent incidents in northern Mexico, a National Militia Act is lawfully enacted by Congress and signed into law by POTUS, compelling every law-abiding American citizen age 18 and older to buy two firearms – a revolver and a rifle – and to acquire firearms training, to better provide for domestic security.

Any problem with the government forcing you to do this or does this seem unconstitutional?


by tpeichel 2010-04-03 11:27AM | 0 recs

John Adams wasn't President until 1825.

by Jen7 2010-03-29 01:33PM | 0 recs
RE: Hmmm...

John Adams POTUS: 1797 - 1801

John Q. Adams POTUS: 1825 – 1829

by fogiv 2010-03-29 01:51PM | 0 recs bad


by Jen7 2010-03-29 01:56PM | 0 recs
RE: Founding Father signed health insurance mandate into law

And the Founding Father was a winger favorite.




Hey! Where's Kent?

Has nyone seen him since March 21?

by spirowasright 2010-03-29 03:59PM | 0 recs
The Confluence?

They do seem to high-tail it out of here quickly when things are going Obama's way.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-03-29 10:11PM | 0 recs
RE: Founding Father signed health insurance mandate into law

by Steve M 2010-03-29 11:59PM | 0 recs
The truth about this bill


by BuckeyeBlogger 2010-03-29 08:59PM | 0 recs
If only those who are Constitution Thumpers...

were more open-minded to they themselves being wrong/mis-informed.  Those who preach the Constitution like gospel would refuse to accept something like this.  (by the way this isn't knocking the Constitution, just pointing out the hypocrisy that is the far-right)

by Chuckie Corra 2010-03-30 01:09PM | 0 recs


Advertise Blogads