One of the talking points against the Affordable Care Act is that the requirement to get health coverage is unconstitutional, it’s an idea the Founding Fathers would never have supported. The standard counter-argument was that the world–especially that of medicine, and the cost of health care–has changed since the 1700s.
Yet a new column in Forbes magazine by Rick Ungar sets the record straight, entitled “Congress Passes Socialized Medicine and Mandates Health Insurance… In 1798.”
In July of 1798, Congress passed – and President John Adams signed – “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.” The law authorized the creation of a government-operated marine hospital service and mandated that privately employed sailors be required to purchase health care insurance. […]
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.
But it wasn’t just Adams. Thomas Jefferson also supported this law, as Greg Sargent at The Plum Line at the Washington Post points out.
It turns out Thomas Jefferson also supported the same measure, meaning it had more support than you might have thought among the founders. Jefferson, of course, is the founder most often cited by the Obamacare-despising Tea Partyers as their intellectual and political forefather…
Adam Rothman, a Georgetown University history professor who specializes in the early republic, tells me:
Alexander Hamilton supported the establishment of Marine Hospitals in a 1792 Report, and it was a Federalist congress that passed the law in 1798. But Jefferson (Hamilton’s strict constructionist nemesis) also supported federal marine hospitals, and along with his own Treasury Secretary, Albert Gallatin, took steps to improve them during his presidency. So I guess you could say it had bipartisan support….
…As Ezra Klein notes, this was in many ways similar to the system underlying the idea of Medicare-for-all — they paid taxes in exchange for government run health
So let’s leave the Founding Fathers out of this. I mean, they did put “promote the general welfare” right at the top of the Constitution, right?