Why We Should Trade Broccoli and Asparagus for Hot Dogs and Apple Pie

Individual Mandate v. Medicare for All

The Republican vote to repeal the new health care law is purely symbolic. But there’s one provision of the law that Republicans are likely to try to defund, and they may have the public with them on this. It’s the so-called “individual mandate” – the requirement that everyone purchase health insurance, or pay a fine. According to a recent poll, 60 percent of the public opposes it. They just don’t like the idea of  government telling them they have to buy something.

The mandate is also particularly vulnerable to legal challenge. So far, two federal judges, one in Virginia and another in Florida, have struck it down. They say the federal government has no more constitutional authority requiring citizens to buy insurance than requiring them to buy and consume broccoli, or asparagus.  The Florida judge referred to broccoli; the Virginia judge to asparagus.

Yet the new system can’t work without the individual mandate.  Only if everyone buys insurance can insurers afford to cover people with preexisting conditions, or pay the costs of catastrophic diseases.

The curious thing is Americans don’t mind individual mandates when they come in the form of payroll taxes to buy mandatory public insurance. In fact, that’s the system we call Social Security and Medicare, and both are so popular politicians dare not touch them.

Robert ReichAnd no federal judge has struck down Social Security or Medicare as being an unconstitutional requirement that Americans buy something.

Social Security and Medicare aren’t broccoli or asparagus. They’re as American as hot dogs and apple pie.

So if the individual mandate to buy private health insurance gets struck down by the Supreme Court or killed off by Congress, I’d recommend President Obama immediately propose what he should have proposed in the beginning — universal health care based on Medicare for all, financed by payroll taxes.

Robert Reich
Republished with permission from Robert Reich’s Blog


  1. Richard Packard says

    “The curious thing is Americans don’t mind individual mandates when it comes in the form of payroll taxes to buy mandatory poublic insurance.” What planet does Robert Reich live? I have never met an American worker (blue collar, damn near extinct) who “didn’t mind” paying payroll taxes! Likewise, I don’t know any American who like being told what to do by the government except an elitetist liberal who, rather be the one doing the “telling”. If the healthcare reform cannot be sustained without the “individual mandate” then it should go down in flames unless it has the “consent” of the people. From the most recent accounts, it does not have the support or consent of the majority of the American people. It was a piece of legislation that was “railroaded” through both houses and signed by the president eventhough it “did not” have the support of the American people. Its obvious that the courts “will find” the mandates unconstitutional and we’ll have it to start all over again. Hopefully “Frick” (republicans) and “frack” (democrats) will get it right this time without the political posturing, its a waste of taxpayers dollars paying these “idiots” whos only concern is getting re-elected and tossing “raw meat” to their particular constituency at the cost of the rest of us. I wish that the American people will “wake” their dumb-asses up and see that they’re being “hoodwinked” by both political parties, former presidents, congressmen, cabinet members (Robert Reich) who is living off the American taxpayer in the form of “pensions”. You can also add to the mix public and private fortune 500 corporations whos interest is keeping the “average” American off-balance and fighting amongst themselves while they continue to increase their own wealth. Many Americans today cannot afford to pay for out-of-control healthcare let alone the insurance premiums being “mandated” by this so-called healthcare reform.

    • says

      I totally agree that an individual mandate is unconstitutional, now the next individual mandate that should go by the way as Reich mentions above is Medicare. Is it really fair to force seniors to participate in Medicare under the threat of a financial penalty while their premiums rise and the quality of their care decreases? Due to decreasing funds and reimbursement to health care providers, this is an unsustainable system and the quality will continue to deteriorate without competition.

  2. The Mike Field says

    The system can’t work without the individual mandate? Well, if the mandate is unconstitutional, you’ll have to come up with a system which is constitutional.

    Ever heard of tax and spend? Have a payroll tax on employers who do not provide a health benefit. Payroll tax already deemed legal. Use the money to provide a public benefit — health insurance. Already deemed legal.

    The political process by which the health care reform act became law is too convoluted to describe in a short way. But it was the end result of one faction hoping against the current of public opinion to create a government-run health care system and another hoping for nothing. Not a very good way to solve your problems.

  3. pigdog67 says

    Robert single payer would be the way to go. Its based on payroll taxes in Canada. Everyone is covered. Everyone working pays in. It cost 5% of the total cost of healthcare. In the US insurance takes up 30% of the total cost.
    Unfortunately Obamacare would force a person to buy their employers insurance if is available. My small employer wants 1220 per month for a family and only has one plan through United Healthcare. I cannot afford this an would rather go without. But I would be fine with single payer.

  4. Brian Knowles says

    Golly, Robert. I guess you hadn’t heard that a Federal Court declared this “Health Care” thing unconstitutional…

  5. Alan8 says

    “Only if everyone buys insurance can insurers afford to cover people with preexisting conditions, or pay the costs of catastrophic diseases.”

    A blatant lie. In a SINGLE-PAYER system, no one has to buy anything.

    The corporate Democrats are forcing us all to pay BILLIONS of dollars for insurance-corporation profits.

    This is similar to the lie Obama told when he said that ALL alternatives were considered, and his system was the most cost-effective.

    Bullshit! If if you vote for these two corporate-funded, corrupt parties, YOU ARE SUPPORTING THE BULLSHIT.

    Vote Green Party or Socialist to send a message. (It’s an election — not a horse race. The party you vote for doesn’t have to win to send a powerful message of defiance!)

  6. marie says

    That still leaves the unemployed. If they don’t have a nice cushion of savings, how can they buy health-ensurance?


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