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.

Most Popular


The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More

Billy Graham: Neither Prophet nor Theologian

Asked in 1972 if he believed in miracles, Billy Graham answered: Yes, Jesus performed some and there are many "miracles around us today, including television and airplanes." Graham was no theologian. Neither was he a prophet. Jesus said "a prophet hath no honor in his own country." Prophets take adversarial ... Read More
Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More