Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Legal Debate about that efin Mandate

Listening to the House debate HCR as I type away at a paper due tomorrow and heard Nathan Deal (R-Georgia) say when he becomes governor of Georgia he will challenge the constitutionality of the "individual mandate" in the health care bill (I assume directing the Georgia AG to sue?)

As this seems to be a big thing among Republicans, that its unconstitutional for the federal government to mandate individual citizens to purchase anything (Orrin Hatch and some others had an op-ed in the WSJ about this) its struck me that there is an easy way around the Constitutionality of it.

The government could simply announce a "health care tax" or "health care fee" on all Americans then give a tax credit of the same amount to all Americans who have health insurance. The effect of this is that every American who doesn't have health insurance (but can easily afford it) will pay a small fee; exactly the same thing that would happen with this mandate. Its completely Constitutional, there are tax credits for everything under the sun and tax credits as a concept are used in large part to create incentives to certain types of behavior; ie a tax credit to "retrofit" your home for energy efficiency.

So its basically the same thing; and depending on the language in the bill may be the same thing. Either way it can be interpreted as the same thing on a legal basis and therefore could hold up as Constitutional depending on the judge/justices. I say that because justices on all sides of the spectrum allow their biases to affect how they rule and might find legality (or illegality) in vague language depending on what they personally prefer the outcome to be; even if it goes against legal logic/precedents you've argued for for many years (see Scalia, Atonin in Bush v. Gore.)

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