Is the individual mandate unconstitutional? Not according to Forbes writer Rick Ungar, who unearths a timely bill passed by the 5th Congress and signed into law by President John Adams. The Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen, enacted in 1798, required all seamen to pay 1% of their salary to the federal government in return for the creation and administration of a network of marine hospitals. Diesase was common among eighteenth-century seamen, and the law helped ensure that the sailors would receive care as quickly and efficiently as possible, in order to keep the ships running smoothly. “Clearly,” concludes Ungar, “the nation’s founders serving in the 5th Congress, and there were many of them, believed that mandated health insurance coverage was permitted within the limits established by our Constitution.”

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