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Healthcare reform: Does the individual mandate empower or enslave U.S. citizens?

February 7, 2011 | 11:55 am

Constitutional showdown In Sunday's Opinion pages, Yale Law School professor Akhil Reed Amar took Judge Roger Vinson to task for declaring "Obamacare" unconstitutional. "When uninsured Connecticut residents fall sick on holiday in California and get free emergency room services, California taxpayers, California hospitals and California insurance policyholders foot the bill. This is an interstate issue, and Congress has power to regulate it," he wrote in Constitutional showdown. He continues, "There is nothing improper in the means that Obamacare deploys. Laws may properly regulate both actions and inactions, and in any event, Obamacare does not regulate pure inaction. It regulates freeloading. Breathing is an action, and so is going to an emergency room on taxpayers' nickel when you have trouble breathing."

No surprise, Amar's Op-Ed created a showdown within a showdown among readers. Excerpts from their debate, with spelling corrected for clarity, appear below.

"Obamacare" infringes on our rights:

"If Congress can order me to do something against my will, I am in a position no better than a slave."
-- Mitchell Young

"Ridiculous. Congress orders the citizenry to do things against their will every day. Do you voluntarily pay income tax?  It is called being a citizen of a country. You do things that are for the public good." -- dan3336

Where do we draw the line?

"There has never before been a Constitutional mandate requiring people to buy a private product or face penalties. As Judge Vinson said in his opinion, eating is also something everyone's involved in and this sets a precedent for Congress, if it wanted to, to require people to buy wheat products at a government-mandated price in order to stabilize costs for farmers or breakfast cereal companies or commercial bakers." -- Rob Miller

"Is this the same constitution where my ancestors were three-fifths of a person?" -- yage202

The individual mandate protects people:

"Thanks for such a refreshing read! It never stops to astonish me that one of the richest countries in the world chooses not to provide for its own people, while sending billions to people like Mubarak for defense. In most other developed countries, there is a centralized system. These systems do not rely on insurance companies who simply sit in the middle skimming money off, and denying service."
-- tedre123

"[I] would also like to remind you that preventative care is relatively CHEAP, but if you ignore the issues for years, and you have no insurance when your cancer blows up, and you get rushed to the hospital, guess who pays for it? Yep, you and I pay for it. Also, since you live in California, how mad are you that the state makes you [directly] buy car insurance? You can thank the Republicans and Mercury Insurance on that one. Of which, I agree, if you cannot cover an accident up to a reasonable level, then no, you should not be allowed to take the risk so I suffer. Not sure how health insurance is much different." -- ucsbcpa

A theory on why conservatives really oppose the individual mandate:

"[T]hey'd rather repair roads they might drive on than repair people they might encounter." -- Oilcan


Editorial: The individual mandate is constitutional

The debate over the 'individual mandate': Stuck in neutral?

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Illustration: Thomas James / For the Los Angeles Times

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