Strauss on the Health Care Mandate

Yes, the Health-Care Mandate Is About Liberty
Jonathan Cohn and David A. Strauss
May 3, 2012

As they await the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, legal critics of the law say their case is about liberty. If the government can instruct people to obtain health insurance, they keep asking, what’s to stop it from requiring them to buy broccoli?

But the real threat to liberty in this case isn’t a hypothetical broccoli law. It’s the problem that the mandate remedies -- the failure of the health-insurance market -- and the long-standing national crisis of rising health-care costs that Congress finally found a way to address.

It’s not a coincidence that in every advanced country in the world, including the U.S., the government is heavily involved in the health-care market and has been for generations. Everybody needs medical attention, at some point, and virtually everybody needs health insurance to pay for it. Nobody can predict when he or she will need care and virtually nobody can pay for it out of pocket. Even the law’s challengers acknowledge these facts.

David A. Strauss