Conservatives on Hill say individual mandate is unconstitutional

One of the centerpieces of the Obama Administration's health reform program is a requirement that every American be insured--or face the financial consequences.

This is the principle which governed the (arguably) successful Massachusetts healthcare reforms; it's a central demand of the health insurance industry, which will end up being the parties who figure out how to pay for many of these changes; and in lieu of single-payer, government-delivered healthcare, the only way to spread medical risk across an entire population.

Unfortunately, it's an unconstitutional demand, say some Senate Republicans, who have launched a movement against the mandate as the debate on the bill reaches the eleventh hour. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), for example, is arguing that if the federal government had the right to order that Americans buy certain products, the Cash for Clunkers program would not have been necessary.

Democrats on the Hill insist that this is just the another tactic the opposition has taking in an effort to stall the process. But it seems that even the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service had its doubts, saying that it "seemed possible" that the mandate was acceptable and noting its concerns.

Meanwhile, it's worth noting that the Senate's massive health reform bill includes five pages defending the constitutionality of the individual mandate, arguing that the measure would benefit interstate commerce.

To get more background on this issue:
- read this Kaiser Health News piece
- read this Salt Lake Tribune item

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