Health Care Constitutional With a Twist
The individual mandate provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been upheld by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The federal court held 2-1 that Congress does indeed have the power under the Commerce Clause to require citizens to purchase health insurance.
James L. Graham--appointed by President Ronald Reagan--dissented.
The ruling--written by Judge Boyce Martin, appointed by President Jimmy Carter--came with a twist. Self-choice to remain uninsured is not an option.
"Congress had a rational basis for concluding that the practice of self-insuring for the cost of health care has a substantial effect on interstate commerce," Judge (Boyce) Martin wrote, "and that the minimum coverage provision is an essential part of a broader economic regulatory scheme. Thus, the provision is constitutional notwithstanding the fact that it could be labeled as regulating inactivity."
Cited in Thomas More Law Center v. Obama--U.S. Supreme Court decision 317 U.S. 111 Wickard vs. Filburn, a ruling which determined the power of the government to regulate economic activity under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. (Article 1 Section 8).
Yet, Mr. Filburn's decision to grow excess wheat for home consumption as a single farmer would not substantially impact or undermine the regulation of wheat prices by the U.S. government.
But if Mr. Filburn's neighbors (and their neighbors and their neighbors and so on and so forth) had decided to carve out a backyard garden and grow more than the amount of wheat permitted by law so as to eliminate the need to purchase wheat on the open market, then the governmental stabilization of wheat prices "...by limiting the total supply of wheat produced and consumed..." would be undermined.
Judge Jeffrey Sutton--an appointee of President George W. Bush--agreed with the mandate that individuals be required to purchase health insurance by 2014.
The basic policy idea, for better or worse (and courts must assume better), is to compel individuals with the requisite income to pay now rather than later for health care. Faced with $43 billion in uncompensated care, Congress reasonably could require all covered individuals to pay for health care now so that money would be available later to pay for all care as the need arises. Call this mandate what you will--an affront to individual autonomy or an imperative of national health care--it meets the requirement of regulating activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.
One man's wheat is another man's health insurance.
(To reiterate. The $43 billion paid in 2008 by those of us with health insurance for those who could not (or would not), added $1,100 to family premiums the following year and approximately $410 to an individual premium).
The 4th Circuit and 11th Circuit will each issue their own decisions in the near future; in the meantime, read the Thomas More Law Center v. Obama decision over at Reason.
Currently, the health care constitutional count stands as follows: Obama: 3. Naysayers: 2.
(Doubt the count? Feel free to check out the count here: Ho! Ho! Ho! Health Care Constitutional, Two Out of Three Ain't Bad and Health Care: Nothing Has Changed.
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