I was in favor of a public option for at least three reasons. The first was political. I knew that people would hate being told that they had to buy health insurance from a private for-profit company. Being compelled to spend money is never a good feeling, but being compelled to contribute to someone else’s profit seems like a violation of personal liberty. The second reason was personal. I hate the insurance industry and, in particular, the health insurance industry. I don’t want to give them any money or support. The third reason was ideological. I want to destroy both the health insurance industry and the employer-provided health insurance system, and a public option would probably accomplish that over time.
Yet. I was able to set all those interests and feelings aside in order to see tens of millions of people who are exposed to financial ruin and who have little to no access to health care get some security and better health. We never had the votes for a public option, and I’m not going to harp on it. The polls predictably show that people hate the health insurance mandate. That it is being attacked as unconstitutional is not surprising in the least.
Based on all precedent, the law is not unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court can change that if they see fit. Today, we will get our first hints on whether or not they intend to upend 150 years of constitutional law. And I’m feeling quite apprehensive.
We should remember that the individual mandate originated as a conservative concept based on the idea that freeloaders should not be given a pass to push their health costs on to the rest of us. When Republicans first began touting the individual mandate, they talked about it proudly as an alternative to an employer mandate. They wanted to shift the responsibility for insuring people’s health from private businesses to their employees. It was a matter of personal responsibility. Democrats hated the idea at the time, and most of us still hate it. If you want to compel us to be responsible, then take the money out of our taxes like you do with withholding taxes, Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance. Above all, don’t act all outraged when we take your idea and implement it.
The legal battle against the individual mandate would be easier to take if it was being waged by civil libertarians rather than the authors of the idea. In my entire life, nothing has struck me as more disingenuous than the Republicans’ opposition to the individual mandate. The only thing that comes close is their opposition to TARP.