Here is a good debate between David Rivkin and Lee Casey, on the one hand, and Professor Jack Balkin, on the other, on the constitutionality of an individual federal health care mandate.
It's a good debate, however, only because there is considerable question as to whether this is good policy. Not all things that might be theoretically constitutional, as that document is today intepreted, are good ideas.
Balkin is right. The mandate likely passes constitutional muster. But it is still an imposition on freedom.
Moreoever, without reforming health insurance, all it does is serve as a boon to health insurance companies, and will likely do little to address the underlying problem of excessive cost while forcing people to pay for private coverage that is often cost inefficient.
The more money that goes to for private health insurance rather than directly into a consumers own health care, the more money that is being expended that is not furthering actual health care or its improvement. An individual mandate then in turn dictates this to citizens, telling them in essence that they must pay money to a for profit entity in order to provide themselves -- not others -- with insurance coverage.
In short, it's a terrible idea. And it's intrusive. And it's invasive. And it's yet another indirect handout to a large corporate lobbying concern, one that here is far more responsible for the excessive health care costs that are driving the perceived need for reform in the first place, than for mitigating them.