Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Congress Passes Socialized Medicine and Mandates Health Insurance

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, January 20, 2011

Does history repeat itself?

Before this article was published, I was engaged in conversation with a friend on a subject wholly unrelated to this topic. As I listened to him he remarked, “Heck, when you join the Army, if your teeth need fixing, they’ll fix ’em. If you need glasses, they’ll put glasses on you. If you need any kind of healthcare, they’ll fix you up. The reason the Army provides healthcare is because they understand they’ll get a better quality soldier.

Interestingly, neither my friend nor his family have a military background.

By extension, I wonder… how much more productive could the American worker be if they didn’t have to be concerned about their and their family’s health and healthcare? And then, if we completely ignore “lifestyle” related health issues. i.e., those associated with smoking or obesity, there are other chronic conditions, including heart disease, hypertension, COPD, etc., that significantly adversely affect the lives of families.

Congress Passes Socialized Medicine and Mandates Health Insurance -In 1798
Jan. 17 2011 – 9:08 pm

Rick Ungar
The Policy Page


The ink was barely dry on the PPACA when the first of many lawsuits to block the mandated health insurance provisions of the law was filed in a Florida District Court.

The pleadings, in part, read –

“The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage.”

State of Florida, et al. vs. HHS – http://www.scribd.com/doc/39344827/State-of-Florida-v-United-States-Dept-of-HHS

It turns out, the Founding Fathers would beg to disagree.

In July of 1798, Congress passed – and President John Adams signed – “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.” – http://www.scribd.com/doc/29099806/Act-for-the-Relief-of-Sick-DisabledSeamen-July-1798The law authorized the creation of a government operated marine hospital service and mandated that privately employed sailors be required to purchase health care insurance.

Keep in mind that the 5th Congress did not really need to struggle over the intentions of the drafters of the Constitutions in creating this Act as many of its members were the drafters of the Constitution.

And when the Bill came to the desk of President John Adams for signature, I think it’s safe to assume that the man in that chair had a pretty good grasp on what the framers had in mind.

Here’s how it happened.

During the early years of our union, the nation’s leaders realized that foreign trade would be essential to the young country’s ability to create a viable economy. To make it work, they relied on the nation’s private merchant ships – and the sailors that made them go – to be the instruments of this trade.

The problem was that a merchant mariner’s job was a difficult and dangerous undertaking in those days. Sailors were constantly hurting themselves, picking up weird tropical diseases, etc.

The troublesome reductions in manpower caused by back strains, twisted ankles and strange diseases often left a ship’s captain without enough sailors to get underway – a problem both bad for business and a strain on the nation’s economy.

But those were the days when members of Congress still used their collective heads to solve problems – not create them.
Realizing that a healthy maritime workforce was essential to the ability of our private merchant ships to engage in foreign trade, Congress and the President resolved to do something about it.

Enter “An Act for The Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen”. http://www.scribd.com/doc/29099806/Act-for-the-Relief-of-Sick-DisabledSeamen-July-1798

I encourage you to read the law as, in those days, legislation was short, to the point and fairly easy to understand.

The law did a number of fascinating things.

First, it created the Marine Hospital Service, a series of hospitals built and operated by the federal government to treat injured and ailing privately employed sailors. This government provided healthcare service was to be paid for by a mandatory tax on the maritime sailors (a little more than 1% of a sailor’s wages), the same to be withheld from a sailor’s pay and turned over to the government by the ship’s owner. The payment of this tax for health care was not optional. If a sailor wanted to work, he had to pay up.

This is pretty much how it works today in the European nations that conduct socialized medical programs for its citizens – although 1% of wages doesn’t quite cut it any longer.

The law was not only the first time the United States created a socialized medical program (The Marine Hospital Service) but was also the first to mandate that privately employed citizens be legally required to make payments to pay for health care services. Upon passage of the law, ships were no longer permitted to sail in and out of our ports if the health care tax had not been collected by the ship owners and paid over to the government – thus the creation of the first payroll tax in our nation’s history.

When a sick or injured sailor needed medical assistance, the government would confirm that his payments had been collected and turned over by his employer and would then give the sailor a voucher entitling him to admission to the hospital where he would be treated for whatever ailed him.

While a few of the healthcare facilities accepting the government voucher were privately operated, the majority of the treatment was given out at the federal maritime hospitals that were built and operated by the government in the nation’s largest ports.

As the nation grew and expanded, the system was also expanded to cover sailors working the private vessels sailing the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.

The program eventually became the Public Health Service, a government operated health service that exists to this day under the supervision of the Surgeon General.

So much for the claim that “The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty….”

As for Congress’ understanding of the limits of the Constitution at the time the Act was passed, it is worth noting that Thomas Jefferson was the President of the Senate during the 5th Congress while Jonathan Dayton, the youngest man to sign the United States Constitution, was the Speaker of the House.

While I’m sure a number of readers are scratching their heads in the effort to find the distinction between the circumstances of 1798 and today, I think you’ll find it difficult.

Yes, the law at that time required only merchant sailors to purchase health care coverage. Thus, one could argue that nobody was forcing anyone to become a merchant sailor and, therefore, they were not required to purchase health care coverage unless they chose to pursue a career at sea.

However, this is no different than what we are looking at today.

Each of us has the option to turn down employment that would require us to purchase private health insurance under the health care reform law.

Would that be practical? Of course not – just as it would have been impractical for a man seeking employment as a merchant sailor in 1798 to turn down a job on a ship because he would be required by law to purchase health care coverage.

What’s more, a constitutional challenge to the legality of mandated health care cannot exist based on the number of people who are required to purchase the coverage – it must necessarily be based on whether any American can be so required.

Clearly,  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.

The moral to the story is that the political right-wing has to stop pretending they have the blessings of the Founding Fathers as their excuse to oppose whatever this president has to offer.

History makes it abundantly clear that they do not.

9 Responses to “Congress Passes Socialized Medicine and Mandates Health Insurance”

  1. Perhaps you could add an amicus curia brief to the court that will hear the matter.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder
    A right winger


  2. […] • Congress Passes Socialized Medicine and Mandates Health Insurance […]


  3. Mike Day said

    Thanks for sharing. I did not know that this precedent existed. I look forward to a debate in a public forum where this is brought to light. The more this is known by the American people, the more we can understand a way to fix what ails us. I do like the idea of the cost being 1% of our wages, but that is unrealistic.


  4. […] Congress Passes Socialized Medicine and Mandates Health Insurance […]


  5. Fingersflying said

    This still is not in the Constitution. However, that aside, I already pay out of my wages for good health care – at issue here is liberty to choose what kind of health care I want. Obamacare would destroy health insurance companies by increasing premiums where businesses would not be able to afford to keep their employees on them. I would be forced to use Obamacare unless I can afford to pay thousands of dollars a month to purchase my own health insurance. Yes, the rich need not worry about this. Obama and the elitists in Washington are not going to use this. There are many other “hidden” issues to Obamacare that are not mentioned in this article. This article for maritime health care sounds like the forerunner of the maritime union. You can’t work if you don’t join the union which also pays (in part) for your health insurance. Socialized medicine does not work in Europe nor in Canada. People there wish they had never heard of it, as it costs so much and they have to wait forever to see a doctor or go to a hospital. (sounds the same in this article too) No one here mentions Obama’s bureaucrats deciding who even gets medical help i.e. the “death boards.” If this article is all the ammo you have for going down the socialist path to serfdom, I suggest you read the rest of the constitution and the Deceleration of Independence.


    • Warm Southern Breeze said

      Hi! Thanks for reading and for your response! Perhaps you could help me. I’m not certain I understand your response. By writing “this still is not in the Constitution,” it would seem to suggest that the authors of Constitution deliberately violated principles they had only shortly earlier established. Is that what you mean?

      Regarding things “not in the Constitution,” the Ninth Amendment acknowledges the presence of rights not specifically mentioned in the Constitution. And the Declaration of Independence mentions several, among them life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, of the people to alter or abolish government, of legislative representation, among others.

      By writing that “Obamacare would destroy health insurance companies by increasing premiums where businesses would not be able to afford to keep their employees on them,” the Congressional Budget Office has written that “…reduction in employment-based coverage actually lowers the cost of the ACA to the federal government relative to the baseline projections because the extra costs for Medicaid and exchange subsidies are more than offset by the increased revenues resulting from higher taxable compensation among workers who receive higher wages in lieu of health benefits.” In essence, your employer would increase your salary because the portion of benefit they pay for will be in turn paid to you directly. Would you oppose an increase in pay?

      Further, the ACA would not “destroy health insurance companies,” because
      • the law requires them to accept all (forbids “cherry picking,” deciding who they will and will not insure), and
      • forbids discrimination against anyone by denying coverage,
      • on the basis of sex,
      • against those whom are genetically predisposed toward certain disease,
      • against covering children,
      • increasing premiums without justification, dropping coverage in the middle of treatment,
      • requiring premiums be used for treatment rather than CEO compensation, advertising & stockholder payoff.
      In essence, the very idea of insurance is strengthened, because the pool is larger, therefore risk is significantly reduced, and distributed over a greater base.

      As an anecdotal observation, I have a friend whom is an entrepreneur. The premiums for his family of two are exorbitant, and he has complained numerous times to me that the insurance company has:
      • increased rates significantly (more than triple, several times) without justification
      • decreased the level of coverage in the policy
      • not paid for medications or procedures which the policy specifically states are covered
      • refused payment for procedures & medications determined medically necessary by the physician.

      I find your remark of “death panels” to be so utterly absurd and blatantly ignorant that it borders on insanity, and I challenge you to post a reply with links to the original document and/or law specifically where “death panels” or any such idiocy is mentioned, suggested, hinted at, or alluded.

      Regarding your ignorant remark that “socialized medicine does not work in Europe nor in Canada,” I can supply another anecdotal observation.

      Another entrepreneur friend of mine has family in the Netherlands. Her sister was bicycling and struck by an automobile, and very nearly lost her life. Her recovery was arduously lengthy, required significant surgeries and post-hospital rehabilitation for well over a year. During the entire time, she was off from work, she continued to receive pay, did not incur a hospital bill, had all medications and procedures paid for, and when she returned to work, learned she had actually received a promotion with increase in pay… all while she was off work recuperating.

      Physicians in Germany make house calls. When was the last time you’ve ever heard of such practice in the USA? Germany’s health care insurance allows for treatment of elderly parents in house, rather than stuffing them away in an anonymous nursing home where no one loves them. When was the last time you ever heard of that in the USA? Germany’s health care insurance allows someone to come in and help mom with household chores and responsibilities when a child is sick and mom needs some help. That helps promote family values, but when have you ever heard of any such insurance in the USA? Health insurance in Germany has no deductibles, and everyone pays the same price and has the same coverage. When have you ever heard of that in the USA? In the USA, employers pay on average, 18% of each employee’s gross income versus around 8% in Germany. In Germany, Civil servants and those who earn more than $72,000 a year can opt out of the main system, and only about 10% do. A significant difference between the German system, and the American system is that in the German system, it is refereed to ensure equitablity and affordability. In America, it’s a Wall Street dog eat dog world.

      Yes, such civil and humane behavior is exceedingly above the savagery of the United States. We are brute beasts who fuss and fight about what is genuinely good, just and right, while we sacrifice our lives upon the altar of increased profits and worship in the cathedrals of mammon.

      Concluding, I encourage you to read this entry that more specifically details what the law does, and time frame for the same.
      House Republicans move to repeal Obama health insurance reforms


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