Conservative opposition to the law centers around the individual mandate to buy insurance. Last week my local newspaper ran an editorial by Republican Congressman Scott Garrett in which he argues that:
"...At the heart of this act is the individual mandate, which holds that the federal government can require citizens to purchase health insurance......Such a law is unprecedented, unnecessary, unlimited and, above all else, unconstitutional. Never before has the federal government required people to buy a good or service..."
You all of course are familiar with the argument and there is no need to elaborate here.
Garrett however goes on to say that:
"...The Founders, who fought for liberty through the blood, sweat and tears brought by years of war — and remained suspicious of a strong, centralized government—would be surprised to learn that the U.S. Constitution authorized the federal government to pursue expansive powers antithetical to the principles of personal freedom. They would not, however, be surprised to learn that a future administration would claim these powers..."
Garrett's invocation of the founding generation is interesting but he forget a few small details. Hospitals were a new concept in the late 1700's. Dr. Benjamin Rush, the country's leading physician, still believed in bleeding patients. Skilled nursing was unknown. There were no drug suppliers and pharmacists mixed their own prescriptions. There was no reliable anesthesia, treatments for tuberculosis, cardiac surgery, or chemotherapy.
I have to ask if Thomas Jefferson would have opposed the health care mandate when five of his six children by his wife did not survive to adulthood. Would he still have rejected it after seeing his wife die?
What I find even more interesting as a history buff is that conservatives forget that there was a debate over an intrusive, individual mandate during the 1700s. I refer of course to the smallpox vaccine. The Smallpox vaccine was available but it was a dangerous and unpleasant experience. Although the Germ Theory of disease would not be common until a century later, both the medical community and the public knew that getting vaccinated would protect a person's health. The dangers of the vaccine made mandatory vaccination politically impossible but John and Abigail Adams both were vaccinated as were their children. George Washington wrote in 1777 that, "If I was a Member of that Assembly, I would rather move for a Law to compel the Masters of Families to inoculate every Child born within a certain limited time under severe Penalties."
Let me repeat the words of George Washington*, "move for a Law to compel"
Any thoughts on this aspect of the debate?
*George Washington of course was an unreliable pinko who feared the establishment of a standing army and the perpetuation of a permanent and privileged officer class.