Posts tagged: Individual Mandate

First They Came to Encourage Us to Take Aspirin . . .

By , December 13, 2012 11:39 am

First the good news:

Aspirin is a wonder drug, one that virtually all men over 45 and woman over 55 should take to keep the arteries clear and cancer at bay. So says Dr. David Agus, a professor at USC’s medical school, in an Op-ed in today’s New York Times.

Many high-quality research studies have confirmed that the use of aspirin substantially reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Indeed, the evidence for this is so abundant and clear that, in 2009, the United States Preventive Services Task Force strongly recommended that men ages 45 to 79, and women ages 55 to 79, take a low-dose aspirin pill daily, with the exception for those who are already at higher risk for gastrointestinal bleeding or who have certain other health issues. (As an anticoagulant, aspirin can increase the risk of bleeding — a serious and potentially deadly issue for some people.)

New reports about aspirin’s benefits in cancer prevention are just as convincing. In 2011, British researchers, analyzing data from some 25,000 patients in eight long-term studies, found that a small, 75-milligram dose of aspirin taken daily for at least five years reduced the risk of dying from common cancers by 21 percent.

Dr. Agus is so excited about aspirin that he argues, “why not make it public policy to encourage middle-aged people to use aspirin?”

Which leads me to the bad news:

Dr. Agus apparently can see no end to such policy initiatives, at least when his money is at risk because of someone else’s bad health practices:

[W]hen does regulating a person’s habits in the name of good health become our moral and social duty? The answer, I suggest, is a two-parter: first, when the scientific data clearly and overwhelmingly demonstrate that one behavior or another can substantially reduce — or, conversely, raise — a person’s risk of disease; and second, when all of us are stuck paying for one another’s medical bills (which is what we do now, by way of Medicare, Medicaid and other taxpayer-financed health care programs).

Now, who can’t see the benefits of everybody eating better, exercising more, and so on? I can. But I can also see a problem here: one man carrying out his duty can easily become another man’s oppressor. And a woman with one finger on the pulse of America and the power to call out the nannys when that pulse rate increases, is likely a woman with too much power.

In Oral Arguments for the recent Obamacare case, Justice Scalia asked Solicitor General Verrilli whether if the government could mandate that we buy health insurance, it could also mandate that we eat broccoli. Supporters of Obamacare laughed at the idea. As James Stewart wrote in The New York Times, in an article titled “Broccoli Mandates and the Commerce Clause,”

The Supreme Court itself has said: “The principal and basic limit on the federal commerce power is that inherent in all Congressional action — the built-in restraints that our system provides through state participation in federal governmental action. The political process ensures that laws that unduly burden the states will not be promulgated.” And absurd bills like a broccoli mandate are likely to fail other constitutional tests. (emphasis supplied)

All I can say in response to that is, “Mr. Stewart, meet Dr. Agus.”

Scalia Hits The Nail — And Hard

By , June 28, 2012 9:50 am

From Scalia’s dissent (at page 190 of the opinion), joined by Kennedy, Alito, and Thomas, in the Affordable Care Act case:

The Court today decides to save a statute Congress did
not write. It rules that what the statute declares to be a
requirement with a penalty is instead an option subject
to a tax. And it changes the intentionally coercive sanction
of a total cut-off of Medicaid funds to a supposedly
noncoercive cut-off of only the incremental funds that the
Act makes available.

The Court regards its strained statutory interpretation
as judicial modesty. It is not. It amounts instead to a vast
judicial overreaching. It creates a debilitated, inoperable
version of health-care regulation that Congress did not
enact and the public does not expect. It makes enactment
of sensible health-care regulation more difficult, since
Congress cannot start afresh but must take as its point of
departure a jumble of now senseless provisions, provisions
that certain interests favored under the Court’s new design
will struggle to retain. And it leaves the public and
the States to expend vast sums of money on requirements
that may or may not survive the necessary congressional

The Court’s disposition, invented and atextual as it is,
does not even have the merit of avoiding constitutional
difficulties. It creates them. . . .

Hurrah for the limits the Court imposed on the Commerce Clause. Boo because the Court struggled so hard to find a tax. Double boo on a Congress that didn’t have the guts to call it a tax in the first place.

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