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Individual Mandate? Romneycare Insured Only Another 5 Percent

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
When Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts in April 2006, he signed a health care reform bill that required all adults in that state to purchase health insurance by July 1 of the following year.

Under Romneycare, people making up to 300 percent of the poverty level get a subsidy -- i.e., wealth redistributed from others -- to help them pay for their state-government-required insurance plan.

Barack Obama thought this was a good idea. The federal plan he signed in 2010 requires all American adults to purchase health insurance by 2014 and provides that people making up to 400 percent of the poverty level will get a subsidy -- i.e., wealth redistributed from others -- to help them pay for their federal-government-required insurance plan.

As a presidential candidate, Romney has defended his plan and attacked Obama's.

In a debate last month in Ames, Iowa, Chris Wallace of Fox News asked Romney where government got the authority to force individuals to buy goods and services the government wants them to buy.

"Do you think that government at any level has the right to make someone buy a good or service just because they are a U.S. resident?" Wallace asked. "Where do you find that authority -- that mandating authority -- government making an individual buy a good or service in the Constitution?"

Romney first pointed out that if he is elected president, he would repeal Obamacare.

Then he argued that forcing individuals to buy health insurance was justified under the Massachusetts constitution and was the right thing for Massachusetts.

"Where do I find it in the constitution?" Romney said. "Are you familiar with the Massachusetts constitution? I am. And the Massachusetts constitution allows states, for instance, to say that our kids have to go to school. It has that power. The question is, is that a good idea or bad idea? And I understand different people come to different conclusions.

"We said, look, we're finding people that can afford insurance, health insurance, that are going to the hospital and getting the state to pay for them. Taxpayers are picking up hundreds of millions of dollars of costs from people who are free riders.

"We said, you know what? We're going to insist that those people who can afford to pay for themselves do so. We believe in personal responsibility."

But did Massachusetts truly have a serious problem in people deciding not to buy health insurance?

The Henry Kaiser Family Foundation, based on Census Bureau date, estimates the average percentage of uninsured people in each state over two-year periods.

In 2005-2006, the two years before the Romneycare insurance mandate took effect, 9.7992 percent of the people in Massachusetts were uninsured, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That means roughly 90.2 percent of the people in Massachusetts did have health care coverage.

In 2008-2009, the two years after the Romneycare insurance mandate took effect (and the latest two-year period estimated by the Kaiser Family Foundation), 4.9652 percent of the people Massachusetts were uninsured. That means that after implementation of Romneycare, roughly 95 percent of the people in Massachusetts had health care coverage.

In other words, Romneycare made sure an additional 4.834 percent of the people in Massachusetts had health care coverage.

And it left about 5 percent still uninsured.

Based on interviews done for its own ongoing Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Gallup this week estimated that in the first half of 2011, 5.3 percent of the adults in Massachusetts were still uninsured.

In general terms, this is what Mitt Romney got for accepting the principle that a government could force individuals to buy a good or service: He took a state where nine out of 10 people had health care coverage and turned it into a state where 9.5 out of 10 people had health care coverage.

Before signing his health care law, Romney should have read the words of Justice Samuel Chase -- a signer of Declaration of Independence.

"There are acts which the Federal, or State, Legislature cannot do, without exceeding their authority," Chase wrote in his 1798 opinion in Calder v. Bull.

"A few instances will suffice to explain what I mean," he said. "A law that punished a citizen for an innocent action, or in other words, for an act, which, when done, was in violation of no existing law; a law that destroys or impairs, the lawful private contracts of individuals; a law that makes a man a judge in his own cause; or a law that takes property from A and gives it to B: It is against all reason and justice, for a people to entrust a legislature with such powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it."

Romneycare and Obamacare both force people to enter into contracts against their will and take property from A and give it to B.

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