Rights Versus Mandates: The Health Insurance Debate

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I’m 30 years old, I eat right, exercise, get lots of sunshine and minimize the known carcinogens I put in and on my body, but an accident can happen to anyone, right? Last September, I was laid off and COBRA insurance would have cost me $1200 per month to continue coverage, so I decided to take a risk. Bad things happen to good people, but I simply cannot afford to continue coverage at that rate while on unemployment (or working full time for that matter). Those who know I am a veteran might remark, “Oh but you have the VA for insurance.” Yes, I am enrolled in the VA’s health care system, but it is NOT insurance. I have access to health care at the VA on a sliding scale rate based on my income, but this is not “free insurance” as so many civilians have tried to argue with me. If I am treated at a non-VA facility or have to take a joyride in an ambulance, which will take you to the nearest public hospital, I am 100% responsible for that bill. So, no, I don’t have health insurance and the health care I am eligible for at the VA I earned. I’ve never applied for insurance outside of what my employer provided, but I have a pre-existing condition. I’m an unemployed, uninsured statistic, but I refuse to put my individual wants over the laws of the Constitution, the rights of the States and the individuals.

According to Reason Magazine, the individual health insurance mandate is a clear violation of the American contract law because, “American contract law rests on the principle of mutual assent. If I hold a gun to your head and force you to sign a contract, no court of law will honor that document since I coerced you into signing it. Mutual assent must be present in order for a contract to be valid and binding.” Under the Individual Mandate the government will be unlawfully forcing individuals into a contract with private companies.

Where will it stop? On March 27, the second day of the Supreme Court hearing, Chief Justice Roberts asked if the Federal Government was going to force people to own cell phones so they could contact emergency services; a clear example of the slippery slope we are sliding down. If this passes, I would like to propose that we have Home Invasion Insurance and force every American to own a gun, like is required in Switzerland. If everyone owned a gun, who’s going to break into homes? Statistically, the more guns the public owns, the lower the crime rate and Switzerland has the lowest violent crime rates in the world. So, if all of my neighbors own a shotgun, I’m far less likely to fall victim of home invasion and, therefore, have Home Invasion Insurance.

Furthermore, justification for the individual mandate of the Affordable Health Care Act is that it falls under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 states:

[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.

This clause authorizes Congress to, “regulate commerce in order to ensure that the flow of interstate commerce is free from local restraints imposed by various states. When Congress deems an aspect of interstate commerce to be in need of supervision, it will enact legislation that must have some real and rational relation to the subject of regulation.” (The Free Legal Dictionary). This clause does not give Congress free reign to regulate any inter/intrastate commerce solely because commerce has taken place. This clause was actually written to protect the States and promote free markets. It is kept in check by the Tenth Amendment, or rather should be. The Tenth Amendment states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.

And down we slide! In the past year, numerous sting operations have been conducted on Amish farmers selling raw milk to buyers who are fully aware that the product is unpasteurized. In one specific incident, the investigation lasted a year until the milk seller crossed state lines and a SWAT team could arrest him under guise of the Commerce Clause. Yet, does this fall under the Commerce Clause? It shouldn’t – it does not impede the milk companies in the states where the Amish farmers went to sell their villainous raw milk. In response, Congressman, and Presidential candidate, Dr. Ron Paul introduced the bill, HR 1830, to allow the shipment and distribution of unpasteurized milk and milk products for human consumption across state lines. Will we soon have to pass individual laws for every aspect of interstate commerce?

It is no longer even restricted to interstate commerce. “In the 1942 case of Wickard v. Filburn, the Court held that the Commerce Clause allowed Congress to forbid an Ohio farmer named Roscoe Filburn from growing twice the amount of wheat permitted by the Agricultural Adjustment Act and then consuming that extra wheat on his own farm. In 2005, the Court reinforced this decision, holding in Gonzales v. Raich that medical marijuana cultivated and consumed entirely within the state of California still counted as commerce “among the several States” and was therefore open to federal regulation” (Reason Magazine). Again, I ask, where will it stop? Will we have to have another Civil War to defend the State’s Constitutional rights? If so, sign me up.

If this passes the Supreme Court, which is there, not to judge its necessity, but rather its lawfulness, I will be punished. I can’t afford insurance so I’ll be penalized with yet another tax. Last year, my income was taxed 25% for Federal Income Tax, 9.3% by California State Income Tax and on top of that I had to pay 7.75% Sales Tax, the hidden tax. That adds up to 42% of my income! Now, I’m going to be penalized for not purchasing a product I don’t want from a private company? That doesn’t sound like America to me.

And will it even lower health care costs to the individual? NO! I am not an economist, so I will simply refer you to these sites for more information: Charity, Health Care and the Free Market, Find it Hard to Defend Free-Market Medicine. If you can expand more on how this legislation will impede the free market and raise the cost of health care rather than lower it, please join the conversation below.

Our founding fathers wrote great liberties into our constitution, but with these great liberties comes even greater responsibility; the responsibility to fight for those freedoms at all costs. Americans are ready to throw away State rights and individual liberties in order to have health insurance mandated and provided for everyone. However, the Bill of Rights doesn’t include health care, nor should it be up to the government to provide this service. Is the health care system broken? Yes. Do we need the Federal Government to fix it by force, taking away the fundamental rights and choices of individuals, States, private companies, doctors, etc., and thus creating more and more laws, regulations and taxes until we no longer have any freedoms or income? That, my fellow citizens, is up to us and whether we stand up and fight for our rights as bestowed upon us by the Constitution.

Lisbeth Prifogle is a freelance writer, Marine officer, and globetrotter currently in San Diego, CA. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles and a BA from DePauw University. Lisbeth spent six months in Iraq and is working on a memoir about her experiences. She keeps a blog titled The Next Bold Move www.lisbethprifogle.com and her work can be found in the 11th issue of Poem Memoir Story, The Splinter Generation, and In the Know Travel. Lisbeth has had problems balancing hormones since she was a teenager and is constantly researching and exploring natural remedies including diet, exercise, and alternative medicines.


  1. Libby, thank you for being so passoinate about this topic and doing all that you can to provide readers with enough information to open their eyes and help them see beyond the box. Kudos, so glad I have other resources now (like this site) to read your posts. I will definitely keep coming back to this site now to see the latest from you. 🙂

  2. Interesting post, but some of your statements may not be totally accurate. For example, you said “… force every American to own a gun, like is required in Switzerland.” While Switzerland’s gun laws are not as rigid as ours, there is no requirement to own a gun. They do however, require every man between the ages of 21 and 32 to have front line military training once a year. When enlisted they are provided a gun by the government and required to keep it at home. When discharged they serve in a military group similar to our National Guard. Women aren’t mandated to own guns, but strongly encouraged. Guns almost seem to be a cultural part of the Swiss people, who have a very low violent crime rate.

    Further, pertaining to the new health care law, are we missing a piece? The insurance you, or anyone has had before March 23, 2010 stays in place, it is grandfathered in. We already pay for people who don’t have insurance, but they don’t GET any insurance. Now they will be able to.

    I’m not sure I understand why this country takes care of people in every other country, but the people in the US don’t want to take care of their own…..I’m just saying.

    • My remark about Home Invasion Insurance was supposed to be a comic look at the slippery slope this legislation starts us down. I apologize for stating that it is a requirement and making implications that aren’t 100% true. I was refering to their required service time when they are issued and required a service weapon in the home and making the assumption that most of them go on to keep guns in their homes after this required time, which I believe is the cause for their low crime rates (again would you break into a home if there was a 99% chance that the owner or their neigbhors own a gun?). If there was confusion – I only meant to use it as an example in my argument and should have been more clear in my statements.

      No missing piece, I was finishing grad school on March 23, 2010 and not fully employed or insured. Even if I had been employed at the time, being laid off last fall would have caused a gap in my plan and therefore I wouldn’t be grandfathered in.

      I don’t understand why it is my or the government’s responsibility to provide insurance for everyone. It’s not affordable and will cause taxes to rise, there’s just no way around that; and as I stated, I already pay 42% of my income to taxes without any health care/insurance. It’s still unconstitutional, as I stated. I’m not sure why we like to think of ourselves as Captain America, when I’m not sure what good America has really done for the world? We invaded Iraq, and I have seen first hand the damage to the people that has caused on a micro-level. We left the country in ruins – physically and financially – not to mention the effects of depleted uranium in our munitions that will effect them for millions of years on. We invaded Afghanistan and again have done more damage than good. Now, it’s a worldwide quest to go to Uganda and stop Kony, who no longer even resides in Uganda or is a threat to the people, but Bush and Obama have sent troops to stop him … or so it seems, but when you look closer you’ll discover that there is more oil in Uganda than Saudia Arabia and rare minerals that make our electronics and cell phones work. So, stop Kony in 2012 or occupy Uganda with troops and more guns? I am a proud American, but I don’t think we are the all loving country we like to think of ourselves as. Everything we have done as a country has been out of self-interest. So, no, I’m not ready to give up my rights to freedom in order to take care of everyone within our borders. Still doesn’t seem like a fair trade-off. If we had the most powerful peace-corp, rather than military, in the world then I might agree it is time we take care of our own people. Wait, I do think it’s time to take care of our own people – stop funding the military-industrial complex (which I was part of as both a Marine and civilian) and start funding our education system. Stop bailing out the banks and start encouraging states, like N.Dakota, to form their own state bank leading to a 3% unemployment rate (not sure what the exact number is off hand). End the Federal Reserve and increase free markets in America and I guarantee the health care problem would take care of itself in time because the insurance companies would be forced to act fairly by the people, not the government.

      I guess that’s why this issue has me so heated – we simply have forgotten that we are the people. We make the government. We don’t need them, they need us. Without the government we stil exist, but without the people, there is no government. We have all the power so why are we surrendering? Why don’t we occupy the lobbies of insurance companies and demand they change their policies – we can do that without surrendering state and individual rights.

      • You make great points here. I totally agree with alot of your reply on education, insurance industry, invading other countries and without people there is no government. But something, I don’t propose to know what, has to be done with health care.

  3. I feel your pain. I too struggle with insuring myself and my children. But do you really believe that an unfettered free market will result in “justice for all”? The banking and finance sectors suggest otherwise. Also, how do you explain why private insurers fought tooth and nail for the individual mandate? They didn’t want a single payer universal health care plan because it would have undercut their profits, so they fought for government-required insurance. So did the GOP at one time; in fact they were the first to propose the individual mandate during the Clinton Administration. Finally, if God forbid you did take that joy ride and end up at a non-VA hospital, you’d be stuck with the bill, this is true, but if/when you couldn’t pay it, who would be responsible for the costs incurred by the hospital and ambulance company? That would be those of us paying for insurance. We’d pay your bill in the form of higher premiums. My insurance premiums have gone on 30% in three years–an automatic 10% each year–even though my insurance claims have gone down 480% in the same time period. If that’s how the free market works, I want no part in it!

    • On August 12, 2005 I took the following oath:

      I, Lisbeth Prifogle, do solemnly swear to that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

      My life changed on that day. As an officer, I stated the enlisted oath (the same oath, but with the following added, “and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”) and then listened to the Marine standing in front of me repeat those words at promotion or reenlistment ceremonies. Every time it brought tears to my eyes; numerous times the young Devil Dog wasn’t even a US Citizen, once it was a young Cuban woman hoping to become a citizen through military service. Those words guide my decisions to this day. Most civilians think that the military is there to serve our commander-in-chief and politicians, to defend our country against “terrorists,” but that’s not true. Our job is to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

      The health care act, that I would gander not many people have read fully (I know our legislators weren’t given enough time to read the entire bill before voting and are exempted from the legislation), is a clear violation of our Constitutional rights, as I pointed out in my article. That is what the Supreme Court is deciding this week – not if it is needed/not needed, fair/unfair, free market/controlled market. This really is a black and white issue at this point in time and I think it’s rather obvious where I stand and where, by this oath, I am obligated to stand.

      I had to take that little joyride a couple times due to the pre-existing condition I mentioned. I paid my bill using a credit card that I am still paying off because it was may responsibility to take care of my own affairs. It sucks not having insurance, but I still stand my ground in that it would suck more having to pay for treatments of the 2/3 of Americans who are overweight and having heart attacks, needing diabetes medication, etc., while I take care of myself and my body. Alternative health treatments would not be included and there are numerous holistic examples from cancer to Alzheimer’s, proving that alternative treatments are less costly, have no side-effects, oh and they work. Of course, if the government was giving us health care they could also force us to wake up and exercise in the morning while monitoring it from mandated video cameras in everyone’s homes. Oh wait, that’s what happens in 1984, but that could never happen in real life.

      The more we demand the government give give give, the more freedoms we have to surrender in order for them to provide those services. Think about when you were a teenager – you wanted freedom from your parents, but they still provided a shelter, food and water so ultimately they had control over you and your decisions. So, you get a job and start gaining financial freedom, but they still provide a roof over your head, so still you have to obey their house rules. Eventually you move out and are responsible for yourself and now you can finally do what you want rather than live by someone else’s rules. I don’t need the government making decisions regarding my health, but this is where government health care will inevitably lead.

      As far as free markets go, we no longer have any true free markets due to the heavy legislation monitoring our businesses (please read this article about why we actually need less laws, the larger societies are – http://reason.com/archives/2012/03/15/complex-societies-need-simple-laws). But if you don’t like the free-market system there is always China, which seems to be thriving in this time of world-wide economic turmoil – http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2010-05-26-column26_ST1_N.htm

      • My problem is not with the Republicans who dominate the court questioning the obviously flawed individual mandate for the purchasing of private-sector health insurance but rather with their zeal to limit federal power only when it threatens to help the most vulnerable. The laughter noted in the court transcription that greeted the prospect of millions of the uninsured suddenly being deprived of already extended protection under the now threatened law was unconscionable. The Republican justices seem determined to strike down not only the mandate but also the entire package of accompanying health care rights because of the likelihood that, without an individual mandate, tax revenue will be needed to extend insurance coverage to those who cannot afford it.
        The conservative justices, in their eagerness to reject all of this much needed reform, offer the deeply cynical justification that a new Congress will easily come up with a better plan—despite decades of congressional failure to address what is arguably the nation’s most pressing issue. In their passion to embarrass this president, the self-proclaimed constitutional purists on the court went so far as to equate a mandate to obtain health care coverage with an unconstitutional deprivation of freedom; to make the connection they cited the spirit of a document that once condoned slavery.
        These purists have no trouble finding in that same sacred text a license for the federal government to order the young to wage undeclared wars abroad, to gut due process and First Amendment protections, and embrace torture, rendition and assassination, even of U.S. citizens.
        Now they hide behind the commerce clause of the Constitution to argue that the federal government cannot regulate health care coverage because that violates the sacrosanct principle of states’ rights. If the right-wingers on the high court consistently had a narrow interpretation of federal power over the economy, there would be logic to the position expressed by the Republican justices during the last three days of questioning. Of course, the court’s apparent majority on this has shown no such consistency and has intervened aggressively, as did the justices’ ideological predecessors, to deny the states the power to protect consumers, workers and homeowners against the greed of large corporations.
        We would not be in the midst of the most severe economic meltdown since the Great Depression had the courts not interpreted the commerce clause as protecting powerful national corporations from accountability to state governments. As for there not being a constitutional provision doe federally mandated health insurance, nor was there a constitutional provision for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It was not the Constitution, rather it was legal precedent that justified giving equal rights to blacks. Put another way, it was the right thing to do and the justices found a legal rationalization for doing it. Providing health insurance to all is also the right thing to do, and the court has shown its willingness again and again to interpret the constitution in such ways as to benefit the fat cats, why not find a way to benefit the rest of us?

        • One of the many problems with our country is the us vs them mentality. I think we can all agree that nothing gets accomplished because it’s a constant battle of right/left, republican/democrat, liberal/conservative. The media gives us the illusion of two choices, so Americans simply can’t see outside of that box and instead of working together we are constantly fighting for our “side”. That being said the SC justices don’t affiliate with parties and are all (or should be) “Self-proclaimed constituitional purists.” They are the check in the system to make sure our rights are protected. Furthermore, every single American, judge, politician, child – EVERYONE – should be a proud Constitutionalist, it’s not a political party it’s who we are as a country. I’m not sure when the mindset shifted into the idea that the constitution is bad and/or outdated? It was written to protect individuals from big government. It is the only thing seperating us from a dictatorship or monarchy or socialism or communism. What if I said the civil rights and sufferage act were outdated and should be abolished? Would you fight that? Personally, I have a pocketbook size copy of the Declaration of Independance and Constitution and carry it in my purse everywhere I go (yes, I realize this makes me out to be an incredibly big dork, but a dork who is an advocate of my rights). State rights are sacrosanct. Again, not sure when we stopped teaching our children that states are equal to, if not above federal government, but read the articles our country are founded on – states are meant to govern themselves in the interest of the people. The Civil War was fought over this issue (although again most people are taught it was over slavery, but that is not true at all).

          The cause of the great depression we are in is a direct result of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 which granted privately owned banks the power to issue currency. The best way to explain that is by Mr Jefferson himself:

          “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered…I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies… The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”

          Proof that ending the fed would resolve our depression? N. Dakota created a state bank and their economy is blossoming, “North Dakota has had the lowest unemployment in the country (or was tied for the lowest unemployment rate in the country) every single month since July 2008.” http://truth-out.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=3083:north-dakotas-economic-miracle–its-not-oil

          America would also have a thriving economy if a plan to bankrupt the people in order to grow Federal Government that started in 1913, wasn’t finally coming to full effect. This issue is not completely seperate from the health care problem, but if we had a successful economy I can guarantee that we wouldn’t be asking mommy and daddy to take control of a privatized system. In fact, if we abolished the Fed. Reserve we woudln’t be a Welfare State at all.

          As far as embarassing the President, I think he’s doing a great job on his own by basing a campaign on change and then reappointing the same cabinet as Bush and accepting the Peace Prize followed by occupying more countries and commiting acts of war, as in declaring a no-fly zone over libya. And I am missing something here – how is the Civil Rights Act comparable to the health care bill? I don’t see how giving rights to a group of individiuals compares to forcing individuals into contracts, be it through a mandate or more taxes, with a private corporation. It’s a far stretch to say that we all deserve basic liberties regardless of our race, to we all deserve health care, which by law hospitals have to provide regardless of insurance. Private practices are a business and just like a bar reserves the right not to serve someone, so should a private practice reserve that right. If it’s life threating you go to the hospital, not a doctor. So, everyone in fact has access to health care in this country.

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