|Connie Cass; Connie Cass The Associated Press|
People are split over the wisdom of
Nonetheless, Americans don't like being told how to spend their money, not even if it would help solve the problem of the nation's more than 50 million uninsured.
Can the government really tell us what to buy?
Federal judges have come down on both sides of the question, leaving it to the
Their ruling, expected in June, is shaping up as a historic moment in the century-long quest by reformers to provide affordable health care for all.
Many critics and supporters alike see the insurance requirement as the linchpin of Obama's health-care law: Take away the mandate and the wheels fall off.
Politically it was a wobbly construction from the start. It seems half of
One critic dismissed the idea this way: "If things were that easy, I could mandate everybody to buy a house and that would solve the problem of homelessness." That was Obama as a presidential candidate, who was against health insurance mandates before he was for them.
Once elected, Obama decided a mandate could work as part of a plan that helps keep premiums down and assists those who can't afford them.
To hear Republicans rail against this attack on personal freedom, you'd never know the idea came from them.
Its model was a
So much for compromise.
Obama and congressional Democrats pushed the mandate through in 2010, without Republican support, in hopes of creating a fair system that ensures everyone, rich or poor, young or old, can get the health care they need. Other economically advanced countries have done it.
Doing nothing is more expensive than most people realize.
The overhaul is neither the liberal dream of a single government program supported by taxes and covering everyone nor the conservative vision of stripping away federal rules and putting free enterprise in charge.
The Obama plan relies on private companies plus lots of regulation to make sure they provide basic benefits, keep premiums reasonable, and cover the sick as well as the healthy. That's where the mandate comes in. If insurers must cover everyone, even those with existing medical conditions, healthy people have little incentive to sign up before they get sick.