If Obamacare is found to be constitutional, forcing us to buy private health insurance, is there anything the government can't force us to buy?
What about cell phones for emergencies? Broccoli for good health? Burial insurance for unexpected death? An automobile for emergency transportation? Is there any "limiting principle"?
The best argument the Obama government can come up with is that the federal government will not be able force citizens to purchase other important goods and services, because there is nothing out there that is as unpredictable or as involuntary as the need for health care. Health care is unique, so we can be forced to purchase health insurance, but we can't be forced to buy anything else, because everything else is predictable, voluntary and non-unique.
Are you convinced by this argument? Supreme Court Justice Scalia wasn't convinced either:
ANTONIN SCALIA, associate justice, U.S. Supreme Court: ... It may well be that everybody needs health care sooner or later, but not everybody needs a heart transplant. Not everybody needs a liver transplant. I mean. . .DONALD VERRILLI, solicitor general of the United States: That's correct, Justice Scalia, but you never know whether you're going to be that person.ANTONIN SCALIA: . . . could you define the market -- everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food. Therefore, everybody's in the market. Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.DONALD VERRILLI: No. That's quite different. It's quite different. The food market, while it shares that trait, that everybody's in it, it is not a market in which your participation is often unpredictable and often involuntarily.
Anthony Kennedy, the court's swing vote, was not convinced:
At the end of the day’s argument Kennedy seemed skeptical of the government’s argument that the health care market is unique from other markets. He said, “And the government tells us that’s because the insurance market is unique. And in the next case, it’ll say the next market is unique.”
Speaking of unique markets, off the top of my head I can imagine being unpredictably and involuntarily in need of several other products: e.g., private legal services, renter's insurance, and homeowner's insurance.
If I don't happen to suffer from any serious illness before I'm old enough to get health care coverage through Medicare (which I'm currently paying for), I might need any of the above much more than I need comprehensive private health insurance.
But the government doesn't think we should be allowed to make our own decisions about what goods and services are most appropriate for our own lives.