April 3, 2012

Regarding the constitutionality of Obamacare, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) criticized Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for “[s]aying that we stretched the Commerce Clause too much, and therefore it’s not constitutional — well, what about the law in Massachusetts that Mitt Romney signed? It has exactly the same premise” [“Backers ponder a worst-case scenario,” news article, March 29].

Mr. Connolly appears unaware that the Commerce Clause is part of the U.S. Constitution’s enumeration of the federal government’s limited powers. The clause and limits do not apply to Massachusetts or any other state. The congressman’s apparent lack of a basic understanding of the source of congressional power tells us a lot about why Congress often acts as if there were no limits on its authority.

Curt Levey, Washington

The writer is executive director of the Committee for Justice.

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Christopher Junker [letters, April 1] claimed that the appropriate analogy for Obamacare’s individual mandate is not broccoli but car insurance and that “the government can force you to buy car insurance — but only if you own a car.” This is, of course, incorrect. The federal government does not (and cannot) force anyone to buy auto insurance. State governments may. Indeed, one state does not: New Hampshire.

Dennis Clarke, McLean

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It was extremely interesting to contrast Ezra Klein’s April 1 column [“Individual mandate by another name”] with Christopher Junker’s letter in the same edition.

Mr. Klein discussed three constitutional ways to address the “free-rider” problem in the U.S. health-care system. Mr. Junker explained the rationale used by “free riders” — those who are able to pay for health insurance but who intentionally opt out of the system. He said, “If I fall ill or am in an accident, I expect that I will be taken care of regardless of my insurance status.”

Mr. Junker’s rationale suggested a fourth constitutional way to address the problem. That solution would make it illegal to provide health care for people who are not insured. If people take the calculated risk to decline health insurance prior to needing it, they should live (or die) by that decision. In the situation described in Mr. Junker’s letter, he should die.

While I do not favor the latter option, I believe it is part of a serious debate and should be addressed.

Seymour Samuels, Gainesville

In his March 26 column, “Obamacare as legacy,” which criticized the Affordable Care Act, Robert J. Samuelson stated that the act’s “[r]equiring younger workers to have expensive, comprehensive insurance (as opposed to catastrophic coverage) expands the undesirable inter-generational transfer from them to their wealthier elders.” But the act does allow young people (those under the age of 30) to satisfy the individual-mandate requirement by buying low-cost catastrophic coverage plans. See Section 1302(e) of the act.

Jerold D. Cummins, Arlington