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Is There a Constitutional Basis for Mandatory Health Insurance?

Written by Co-author Shawn Ryan - Heritage.org

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Does the Constitution allow the federal government to force individual citizens to buy health insurance? Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) have been waging a war to force Members of Congress to include a concise explanation of the constitutional authority empowering Congress to enact legislation as part of every bill. The legislation titled "The Enumerated Powers Act" would not allow the House or Senate to consider any legislation not containing an explanation of the constitutional authority for legislation.

ConstitutionClearly this is needed, because Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) had a hard time responding to a simple question from a CNS News reporter that strikes at the core of Obamacare: "Does the United States Constitution give the United States Congress the authority to mandate individuals to have health insurance, to carry health insurance?"

Members of Congress should be able to provide the constitutional authority for the federal government mandating the purchasing of health insurance under the penalty of fines and jail time if they support that idea. For that matter, they should be able to recite a constitutional basis for all legislation they support. It should be the first issue a member considers. Not true with Obamacare. In a report released today, Nicholas Ballasy of CNS News asked Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) a simple question concerning authority for individual mandated health insurance.

Akaka responded by saying "I'm not aware of that, let me put it that way. But what we're trying to do is to provide for people who have needs and that's where the accessibility comes in, and one of the goals that we're trying to present here is to make it accessible."

Later in the interview this exchange occurs:

Ballasy: "Is there any specific area of the Constitution that would give Congress the authority to be able to mandate individuals to have to purchase health insurance?"

Akaka: "Not in particular with health insurance. It's not covered in that respect. But in ways to help citizens in our country to live a good life, let me say it that way, is what we're trying to do, and in this case, we're trying to help them with their health."

All Americans should be deeply troubled that a United States Senator can't argue the constitutional basis for Obamacare. Andrew Grossman wrote an excellent paper for The Heritage Foundation Titled "The Enumerated Powers Act: A First Step Toward Constitutional Government." Grossman explains that the simple requirement of a constitutional explanation "would empower those few Members of Congress willing to stand up and call attention to Congress's routine disregard of the Con­stitution's division of powers, especially its limitations on federal power." Grossman argues further that by requiring "legislation to state the basis of its authority would reveal the hollow­ness of the constitutional doctrine underlying so much congressional action. Every bill would be an opportunity for Americans to think seriously about our constitutional order, the wisdom of its design, and the consequences of departing from its strictures." We clearly need to be having that debate right now, because at least one of the advocates for Obamacare in the Senate has not provided any constitutional basis for an individual mandate that all Americans purchase health care.

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