Newsflash: Founders favored "government run health care"

Historians in the News

Forbes writer Rick Ungar is getting some attention for a piece arguing that history shows that John Adams supported a strong Federal role in health care. Ungar argues that Adams even championed an early measure utilizing the concept behind the individual mandate, which Tea Partyers say is unconsittutional.

I just ran this theory past a professor of history who specializes in the early republic, and he said there's actually something to it. Short version: There's no proof from the historical record that Adams would have backed the idea behind the individual mandate in particular. But it is fair to conclude, the professor says, that the founding generation supported the basic idea of government run health care, and the use of mandatory taxation to pay for it....

Ungar argues that this blows away the argument made by many opponents of the individual mandate: That it's unconstitutional to mandate that all citizens purchase health coverage, or that this violates the founding fathers' view of the proper role of government.

Is this true? In some ways it is, according to Adam Rothman, an associated professor of history at Georgetown University. He argues that it's a"bit of a leap" to compare the 1798 act directly to the individual mandate, because the act taxed sailors to pay for their health care, rather than"requiring that sailors purchase it."

But Rothman says that it's perfectly legit to see shades of today's debate in that early initiative....

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