Last Friday evening, I got off the train and walked across the street to a trendy wine bar and Italian restaurant where I was to meet my sister, mother and grandmother for dinner. Once inside, I looked at my phone and realized I was about 20 minutes early and then checked a text message alerting me that the remainder of my party was running about 10 minutes late. Having already plowed through the daily newspaper front to back, and it being the end of the week, I decided to order a glass of wine and zone out for a bit. At the corner of the bar, a group of five men were discussing the constitutionality of the individual mandate of the health care reform law, specifically, the use of the commerce clause. On a normal evening, I’d be watching a news program at home and listening to pundits proliferate their views. Tonight I had a chance to hear what regular citizens thought, so I slid my stool toward the gentlemen and tried hard not to get pegged as an eavesdropper.
By the time I tuned into the conversation, one of the gentlemen was making an argument that defended the constitutionality of the use of the commerce clause to mandate the purchase of health insurance. It was an argument I had heard many times, but the gentleman made it convincingly. “I am legally mandated to own car insurance for my vehicle and no one questions the constitutionality of that,” he said. “What is the difference in regards to health insurance?” (In reality, you are only legally required to carry liability insurance for your vehicle–many people can and do go without collision coverage–but for argument’s sake let’s pretend the situation posed was in fact true.) I wondered, since the man had used a comparison that I had heard before, would one of his friends use the retort to this argument that I had also heard before? Sure enough, as soon as the question was asked, a man in his party with a diverging opinion said, “There is no law requiring you to own a vehicle, therefore the situation is not tantamount to the law requiring that you own health insurance.” Point made, point countered. Nicely done.