Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Most likely: Supreme Court will have to decide constitutionality of mandatory insurance

The mandatory insurance debate represents an intersection (or a train wreck, depending on how you look at it) between federal powers, Congressional constitutional boundaries, and state interests.  At issue is whether Americans can be required to buy medical insurance, and if so, whether penalties can be enforced for noncompliance. The states that oppose the multi-trillion dollar reform argue that among other things, state governments would get stuck with the bill in the long run.  Analysts agree that the case will eventually be decided by the Supreme Court. 

Late last week in Pensacola Florida, Obama’s legal team disputed the argument that a mandatory insurance policy would be unconstitutional.  20 U.S. states adhere to the view that such insurance policies would exceed the limits of the constitution. 

Presiding Judge Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court in Florida articulated the need for patience from both sides.  Commenting on how long it would take to reach a decision, he said “I cannot give you a date certain.”  According to reuters, Judge Vinson made the comment after three hours of testimony. 

Earlier last week, a Virginia Federal Judge opined mandatory health insurance is unconstitutional.  Judge Henry Hudson thinks that Congress does not have authority under the Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) to mandate health insurance.  The power wielded by Congress and the Federal government by way of the Commerce Clause is explained by the Court in its’ 2005 landmark (and controversial) decision, Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005):   
The Commerce Clause emerged as the Framers' response to the central problem giving rise to the Constitution itself: the absence of any federal commerce power under the Articles of Confederation. For the first century of our history, the primary use of the Clause was to preclude the kind of discriminatory state legislation that had once been permissible. Then, in response to rapid industrial development and an increasingly interdependent national economy, Congress “ushered in a new era of federal regulation under the commerce power,” beginning with the enactment of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887 and the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890. (emphasis added).
The key issue – whether the government can force the public to buy a commercial product – will undoubtedly remain at the forefront of national media coverage until either the Supreme Court issues its view, or when the law goes into effect starting in 2014

.Image courtesy of: http://hubpages.com/hub/inauguration-day-clip-art

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