by Rob Natelson
There have been some on-line discussions recently of whether a federal mandate that individuals obtain health insurance would violate the U.S. Constitution. This issue is distinct from the issue of whether other sorts of government health programs – such as single-payer – would be constitutional.
It is also distinct from whether states can impose insurance mandates. They can: States have general governmental powers. But the federal government has only the powers enumerated (listed) by the Constitution.
Let us be clear at the outset that federal involvement in health care (except in a few isolated instances, such as federal employee benefits) certainly violates the Constitution as that document was originally understood.
I have now spent nearly twenty-years of my life researching and publishing scholarly studies on the Founding-Era record, and I have found no significant evidence that those who wrote and ratified the Constitution thought federal power would extend to health care. Quite the contrary: When the Constitution was being promoted to the public, one of the big selling points was that regulation of all such matters would remain exclusively with the states. Continue Reading