Bill Frist Ditches the Individual Mandate, Still Loves Obamacare

Former Senate majority leader Bill Frist was out of the Senate by the time Obamacare was voted on, but he definitely went to bat for the bill, trying to encourage his former colleagues to vote in favor of it.  He even went as far as encouraging Republicans not to repeal the law, but instead topreserve,” “cuddle,” and even “snuggle” the “good elements” within the bill.

But lately at least one portion of the law Frist was formerly snuggly with — the individual mandate — seems to be sleeping on the couch. 

At a conference organized by a major South Dakota insurance and hospital corporation, Frist acknowledged that the individual mandate was unconstitutional (something that hadn’t occurred to him earlier when he pointed to the mandate as one of the best parts of the law). 

But if Frist has been less than faithful to the individual mandate, he’s standing by the rest of Obamacare.

Frist assured conference attendees this week that the law will operate just fine without the mandate, an opinion more optimistic than that of President Obama’s own Justice Department. In trial briefs for the Eleventh Circuit lawsuit it just lost, the DOJ predicted that enacting other provisions of the bill without the mandate would “inexorably drive the health care market into extinction” and therefore conceded that many of the central provisions of the law — including the “guaranteed issue” and “community rating” provisions — would have to fall with the mandate if it were found unconstitutional.

And that’s not just an Obama DOJ talking point. As Ramesh Ponnuru wrote way back in 2009, Obamacare “can’t survive ditching the individual mandate. You can’t, for example, have a ban on insurers’ taking account of pre-existing conditions without such a mandate.”

Clearly, love is blind. But I’m just warning the rest of Obamacare: If things don’t go well at SCOTUS, the honeymoon may soon be over.

Carrie Severino — Carrie Severino is chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network.

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