Calling Mssrs. Epstein, Yoo and Rahe, Or, Paul Krugman Asks a Good Question
In his column in today's New York Times, Paul Krugman frames what I take to be one of the two central questions before the high court. (I'm hoping to get to the second in a post this weekend.) Could the masters of close reasoning around here take a look, then let the rest of us know a good, succinct, and proper
[W]hen people don’t buy health insurance until they get sick — which is what happens in the absence of a mandate — the resulting worsening of the risk pool makes insurance more expensive, and often unaffordable, for those who remain....
There are at least two ways to address this reality — which is, by the way, very much an issue involving interstate commerce, and hence a valid federal concern. One is to tax everyone — healthy and sick alike — and use the money raised to provide health coverage. That’s what Medicare and Medicaid do. The other is to require that everyone buy insurance, while aiding those for whom this is a financial hardship.
Are these fundamentally different approaches? Is requiring that people pay a tax that finances health coverage O.K., while requiring that they purchase insurance is unconstitutional? It’s hard to see why — and it’s not just those of us without legal training who find the distinction strange. Here’s what Charles Fried — who was Ronald Reagan’s solicitor general — said in a recent interview with The Washington Post: “I’ve never understood why regulating by making people go buy something is somehow more intrusive than regulating by making them pay taxes and then giving it to them.”