When you see no difference between a government mandate and a tax credit …

… you have real problems. Peter Gosselin has real problems, if the latest Bloomberg Businessweek quotes him correctly.

The alternative that comes closest to preserving the mandate would be to give tax credits to everyone who carries health insurance. That’s functionally the same as fining those who don’t have coverage, and less subject to constitutional challenge.

It’s essentially the approach being advocated by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who would provide refundable tax credits, usable solely for buying health insurance, of $2,300 for individuals and $5,700 for families.

Converting the insurance requirement to a tax credit is “both a really smart idea and shows you the fallacy of the argument against the mandate, if you can solve the constitutional problem with such a simple thing as relabeling it,” says Peter Gosselin, a senior health policy analyst for Bloomberg Government.

On the one hand, you could use the government’s monopoly on force (the proverbial point of the gun) to force a person to purchase a product. On the other hand, you could allow a person to reduce his tax bill if he chooses to buy a product. Yeah, that’s just a difference in labeling. If you believe that, perhaps I can interest you in some swampland.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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