There is still a lot of buzz about the mandatory health-care clause in the Affordable Care Act. As it happens, this is not news. With a little research a person can discover that America has done this before. It seems that our founding fathers (a much-overused phrase) did this same thing in 1790 during our first Congress.
The mandate they passed then required ship owners to buy medical insurance for their seamen. It was signed by 20 framers of the Constitution and George Washington himself.
In 1792, Congress, along with 17 framers, passed another statute that required all able-bodied men to buy firearms. Congress decided it was a federal duty to buy and possess firearms. Even though four framers voted against this bill, Washington signed it into law. I’m sure the National Rifle Association and others clutching their guns feel even more justified knowing that ancient fears of invasion still persist today and must be defended against.
Congress once again addressed the problem of mandatory health care for seamen. The original mandate didn’t cover hospital stays, so Congress passed a law requiring seamen to buy hospital insurance for themselves. This first-of-its-kind individual mandate requiring the purchase of health insurance was signed into law by President John Adams, one of the original founding fathers and framers of the Constitution.
Fast forward to 2012 and we see the battle joined once again between those who want everyone to be insured versus those who think that this mandate violates the Constitution. In view of the recent hearings, I wonder if Justice Antonin Scalia knows this history being the constructionist-pure soul that he is. I wonder if Chief Justice John Roberts is aware of these precedents being the strict precedent-adhering jurist that he is. We’ll never know what Justice Clarence Thomas is aware of until Scalia casts his vote, or the Tea Party tells him what to do.
All this history aside, doesn’t it make sense to have a healthier population that is able to work when the jobs finally reappear? A healthy workforce is a productive workforce. Why do we need middle men, aka the health insurance industry, raking 30 percent-60 percent off the top of their fees to push paper and figure out new ways to deny people coverage they are paying for?
What’s the big deal about mandatory health care? We have mandatory retirement payments in Social Security. Some companies require their employees to contribute to the company retirement program. We require, in most states, that a driver have automobile insurance of some sort before he/she can obtain a driver’s license or buy a car. So, what’s more important, a car or your health?
The rest of the industrialized world employs some form of single-payer, government-sponsored, universal health care. Their residents live longer and are healthier than ours and it costs less per person than it does here. So, why are we wasting time and more money debating what is logical and right? After all, we have history on our side. We’ve done this before…and it works.
Turner is a retired teacher and industrial engineer who lives near Marble Falls. He is an independent columnist, not a staff member, and his views do not necessarily reflect those of The Tribune or its parent company. "The Voter’s Guide to National Salvation" is a newly published e-book from Turner. You can find it at www.barnesandnoble.com/ebooks. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.