Encamped on his usual bench in Agora Park, retired law Professor Justin Good routinely engaged passersby with the Socratic skills that had terrified his former students. On a breezy Sunday, Max Right, a retired judge, stopped to chat while walking his dog. Max was upset. Professor: What’s wrong, Max? Max: It’s that darn new health care law. It forces me to buy insurance. Next thing you know, the government will try and make me eat broccoli. It’s outrageous, and in all my years on the bench I never saw such an unprecedented power grab. Professor: I haven’t kept up with all the fuss about the law. Could I ask you more about it? Max: Sure. Professor: You’re talking about the new law that regulates health care and health insurance, right? Max: Yeah. Professor: And it’s unprecedented because it has a mandate? Max: Right. Professor: The government makes me pay taxes. And I got drafted into the Army. Are those mandates? Max: Those are different. This isn’t just any mandate. It involves commerce. Professor: Health care and health insurance are big markets, so it must be interstate commerce, right? Max: That’s right. Professor: It’s pretty common for Congress to regulate interstate commerce, isn’t it? Max: Yes. Professor: And it’s not unprecedented for Congress to regulate health care and health insurance, is it? I seem to recall some law about hippos. Max: That’s HIPAA. But you’re being too general. What’s unprecedented is that Congress is making people buy something. Professor: I see. Tell me, Max, how old are you? Max: Seventy. Professor: How do you pay your medical bills? Max: Mostly Medicare. Professor: How does that work? Max: C’mon, Prof, you must know this. Medicare is automatic when you turn 65. The government’s deducted money from my paycheck for 40 years to pay for it. Professor: Interesting. Did you pay that money voluntarily? Max: Of course, not. The government made me pay it. Professor: So didn’t the federal government make you buy Medicare health insurance? Max: Professor, you’re missing the key distinctions. Medicare is a government program. It’s unprecedented for the government to make me buy something from a private company. Professor: Ahh. (stroking his beard) Is that a new Hummer you drove here?
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