Saturday, April 14, 2012

A 1798 “Federal Law Requiring the Seamen to Buy Hospital Insurance for Themselves”?

Eugene Volokh • April 13, 2012 8:00 pm

I don’t have a lot to add to the exchange between Einer Elhauge and Randy Barnett on the 1790s laws that Prof. Elhauge identifies as “mandates” that are sufficiently akin to the individual health insurance mandate. But I did want to say something about a particular example Prof. Elhauge gives,

[I]n 1798, Congress addressed the problem that the employer mandate to buy medical insurance for seamen covered drugs and physician services but not hospital stays. And you know what this Congress, with five framers serving in it, did? It enacted a federal law requiring the seamen to buy hospital insurance for themselves. That’s right, Congress enacted an individual mandate requiring the purchase of health insurance. And this act was signed by another founder, President John Adams

As David Kopel noted two years ago, this law (which I quote below) actually looks a lot like a payroll tax, earmarked for health care, not a mandate to buy health insurance. Ship owners were required to pay a flat sum to the government for each sailor, which they could deduct from the sailor’s wages, and the money would go to fund a local hospital for injured and disabled sailors. But nothing in the statute suggested — as would be the case with a requirement to buy insurance — that the sailor must present some proof of payment when he shows up at a hospital, or that the sailor would be penalized for refusing to pay. (A ship owner could be fined for refusing to pay the money, but that sounds like a normal fine for nonpayment of a tax.)

Read the rest of the Story:

Read the text of the law Here

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