Will Massachusetts lose health-care reform?

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    Will Massachusetts lose health-care reform?

    On November 14, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review a federal appeals court decision rejecting the "mandate" requirement of the 2010 federal health-care reform law.

    That law is based on the Massachusetts form of health-care reform, which has a similar "mandate" requiring residents either to obtain qualifying health-care insurance or to pay a penalty, assessed with income taxes.

    If the Supreme Court agrees with the appeals court and overturns a key part of federal health-care reform, will the Massachusetts reform fall with it?

    [ Adam Liptak, Supreme Court to hear case challenging health-care reform law, New York Times, November 14, 2011, at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/15/us/supreme-court-to-hear-case-challenging-health-law.html ]

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    Re: Will Massachusetts lose health-care reform?

    I agree that if something could be changed..there would already be legal action in place to change it. I think if the Supreme Court overturns the mandate ( and in my opinion..they should)...you will see a push toward doing what every single other industrialized nation in the world does...with the exception of the US.
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    Challenging Massachusetts law

    Someone did sue. By searching "Merlina vs. Massachusetts" you can find the information, reported by newspapers only in the Boston Herald and the North Reading Patch.  (Use "vs." not "v." for that search.)

    Michael A. Merlina's case was a "particular" rather a "facial" challenge. It sought reversal of a Massachusetts regulatory decision denying an exemption, particular to his circumstances, from a tax penalty for lacking health insurance in 2009. The case was heard by Judge Bruce Henry in Middlesex Superior Court this past January 6, but so far no source on the Web has reported the outcome.

    Mr. Merlina was representing himself "pro se" so that a settlement, the likely outcome when lawyers handle such a case, is less likely with this one. None of the many reactionary legal organizations, such as Thomas More Law Center, jumped in to help him out.

    The "mandates" of Massachusetts and New Jersey to buy health insurance are just as much a leap in so-called "police powers" of states, a wholly judicial confection, as those of the federal government are of Congressional powers to regulate commerce and collect taxes. As a carefully researched opinion in Thomas More Law Center v. Obama showed, there has never before been a legal requirement to buy something for the privilege of breathing.
    [ See Judge Sutton, concurring, pp. 27-28 and 34-53, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2010 case no. 10-2388, ruling and opinions at http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/11a0168p-06.pdf ]

    If the federal case against the health-care insurance "mandate" succeeds, it is likely to spur challenges against similar state requirements on their basic legal grounds, rather than on the circumstances of an individual, as in Merlina v. Massachusetts.

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    The no-tax option

    The "tax arguments" for a health-care insurance "mandate" are much less developed than those at the federal level over the "commerce clause" of the Constitution and those at state levels involving so-called "police powers." One reason for that may be that the "tax arguments" are superfluous, just padding out the main cases.

    If a "mandate" is allowed under the "commerce clause" or "police powers," then courts will not care if it is a tax or not. A tax (or tax penalty) is voluntary, in this sense: choose to earn a lower income, below earnings thresholds for health-care assistance or below filing thresholds for income taxes, and you owe no tax penalty.

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    Re: Will Massachusetts lose health-care reform?

    Isn't compulsory K-12 education a precedent for taxing and mandating participation in a government program?
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    Extortion via education?

    Extortion of income from having to educate children--instead of putting them to work as slave labor?

    That's a pretty antique notion, rarely heard in the U.S. for the last 70 years, since the expansion of public high schools and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Now we almost always look at elementary and secondary schooling as a valuable--and costly--public service.

    You don't have to go along with it. About half a million students are home-schooled. If you've tried any of that, you'll know it's a huge time commitment. At around $5,000 to $40,000 per student per year, private and even parochial schools would be out of reach for many people.

    The better analogy at the federal level was the military draft, inactive since 1972, but even that was paid work--in those days at a low scale (1972 E-1 basic pay $288/month, about minimum wage, plus subsistence).