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Is the individual mandate in the healthcare reform legal?

20 Jun

The biggest issue facing the federal government as it reforms healthcare is the individual mandate.  The courts have upheld the federal government has the power to regulate the buying and selling of products and services, but does the federal government have the power to regulate inactivity, not buying of health insurance?  Many cases have been filed in the courts with mixed results.  Ultimately the Supreme Court of the United States will have to decide if the individual mandate is in line with previous rulings or they will set the precedent of expanding the power of the federal government.

 

The Supreme Court has ruled several times stretching Congress’ power in regulating commerce.  In McCullogh v. Maryland (1819), the Supreme Court ruled the Congress has “implied powers.”  This was ruling allowed the Congress to write laws that were necessary and proper to carry out the enumerated powers as well as the implied powers. In Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), the Supreme Court ruled “commerce as all commercial intercourse-all business dealings…the commerce power of the national government could be exercised in state jurisdictions.” (American Government & Politics Today, 2010-2011, Schmidt, p.54).

 

Based upon these precedents the case  Liberty University v. Geithner(2010) was dismissed by US District Judge Norman Moon.  “Judge Moon said the health-care reform law fits “well within Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause.” (Warren Richey, Christian Science Monitor (2010, December, 1), Health-care reform law is constitutional, federal judge rules, CSMonitor.com)  As to the individual mandate clause and more specifically to the “inactivity” argument Judge Moon states “by choosing to forgo insurance, plaintiffs are making an economic decision to try to pay for health care services later, out of pocket, rather than now, through the purchase of insurance,” (Warren Richey, Christian Science Monitor (2010, December, 1), Health-care reform law is constitutional, federal judge rules, CSMonitor.com).  Thus he upheld the individual mandate.

 

U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Conner ruled in Goudy-Bachman et al v. United States Department of Health and Human Services et al.(2011) the individual mandate was unconstitutional.  He said “The [individual mandate] provision of the [Affordable Care Act] exceeds Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause.” (Joyce Frieden, MedPage Today (September 13, 2011), Court: Individual Mandate “Unconstitutional”, MedPageToday.com).  The Judge addressed the “inactivity” in this way. “…because it requires people to buy something ahead of time that they may or may not need in the future. “Congress cannot require individuals … who are not currently seeking or receiving services in the healthcare market to purchase health insurance in order to stabilize the health insurance market,” he wrote. “Congress cannot mandate or regulate in anticipation of conduct that may or may not occur in the future.” (Joyce Frieden, MedPage Today (September 13, 2011),  Court: Individual Mandate “Unconstitutional”, MedPageToday.com).

 

The biggest issue facing the Healthcare Reform is the individual mandate and the interpretation of is inactivity.  Meaning does inactivity imply activity at a later date?  The Supreme Court will have the final say in the matter.

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