Congress has unconstitutionally required Americans to get health insurance. That was the conclusion reached by Virginia federal judge Henry Hudson after he examined the constitutionality of one of the bigger provisions of Obamacare.
The insurance mandate, which required most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty by 2014, was challenged in hopes that the court would stop implementation of the law until it could be reviewed by a higher court.
So what gives the federal government the right to require Americans to buy health insurance? The Commerce Clause. The basic premise behind the Commerce Clause gives Congress the right to regulate economic activity. Heath insurance, proponents argue, is a form of economic activity.
Judge Henry Hudson disagreed.
The problem with such a reaching mandate, critics say, is that it takes away the choice to not have health insurance. It's a choice that many Americans, whether for economic reasons or otherwise, choose not to purchase.
"Neither the Supreme Court or any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause power to compel an individual to involuntarily enter into the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market,"
The bottom line is that in working to find a solution to the growing healthcare problem, Congress must still act within the bounds of the Constitution. What exactly those bounds are is still being shaped by courts across the county. Expect Obamacare to ultimately end up before the Justices at the Supreme Court.
- Federal Judge in Virginia Strikes Down Healthcare Law (FindLaw)
- Obama Healthcare Law Ruled Unconstitutional (FindLaw's Courtside)
- Commerce Clause (FindLaw's LawBrain)