Is the Individual Mandate really a new idea?

In all the coverage of the Healthcare showdown at the US Supreme Court, I have found one topic particularly interesting. It is the idea that the individual mandate may not be as new and renegade as one might think. There are in fact arguably many other individual mandates to which the US population is already subjected without much protest. One of which has to do with government subsidized health insurance! The next time you take a look at your paycheck stub make sure you pay special attention to the deduction for Medicare tax withheld.

That’s right, even if you don’t purchase health insurance for yourself, you are still paying monthly for a Medicare recipient’s health insurance. Therefore, why is it so unconscionable that you would be asked by the government to pay for your own insurance or pay a fine? One reason is the method in which Congress choose to achieve each. Medicare is a withheld tax, much like other mandated programs such as Social Security. This is done under Congress’s power to tax and spend. On the other hand the individual mandate is requiring citizens to purchase something in the open market, and then fining them if they fail to comply.

Why is it that we don’t mind as a society to be forced, by a mandatory employment tax, to pay for something, but we don’t want to be forced to buy something, which we do have some control and choice over? I’m not sure what the answer is, and it is interesting how your perception of the mandate may change when it is viewed this way. I think the anger and argument over the individual mandate, is really not over the mandate itself. It is over Healthcare Reform in general, and the resistance to change. What about you? Does viewing the mandate in this light change your perception or position any?

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