In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the federal health care law based on Congress' broad taxation power rather than on the basis of the Constitution's commerce clause, millions of Americans undoubtedly are relieved that the government can't make them eat broccoli.

Of course, that never was a threat. But broccoli was thrust into the argument first by talking heads and then by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who raised the prospect of forced broccoli consumption during oral arguments about the commerce clause.

The broccoli analogy fails because it looks at the wrong side of the market.

If you go to a supermarket or farm stand to buy broccoli, the grocer or farmer gladly will sell all of it to you, if you want that much.

That's not how the insurance market works. There, sellers select their buyers. They might sell the insurance to you. Or they might not if you had a "pre-existing condition" that could be anything from cancer to pregnancy. Or they might sell the insurance but impose a lifetime benefit cap regardless of medical conditions you might experience. Or they might sell you the insurance and then withdraw it for whatever reasons suit their risk models.

The health care law eliminates most of the restrictions that insurers can impose on access to insurance and, therefore, to comprehensive health care. Virtually no one disputes that Congress can do so under the commerce clause.

But the requirements placed on insurers raised the question of how they would pay for all of the health care to which millions of Americans suddenly would have access because of the regulations. The answer was the individual mandate, which requires everyone to pay something for coverage, thus access to care.

The question never was whether the government could make you eat broccoli, it was whether you could get broccoli for free, at someone else's expense.