"The political and legal future of the sweeping health care reform bill," CNN.com this morning reported, "received a big boost yesterday with the Federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruling in favor of the Obama administration and Congress, concluding a key provision in the landmark legislation was constitutional.
"The 'individual mandate,' requiring nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or face financial penalties," the article went on to explain, "was challenged in federal courts by a large number of individuals and groups, who said people should not be forced to purchase a product like medical coverage. The partially divided, 3-judge panel of the 6th. Circuit disagreed, finding that the minimum coverage provision is a valid exercise of legislative power by Congress under the Commerce Clause."
The Court's opinion related that Michigan’s Eastern District Court had held that "the minimum coverage provision falls within Congress's authority under the Commerce Clause for two principal reasons: (1) the provision regulates economic decisions regarding how to pay for health care that have substantial effects on the interstate health care market; and (2) the provision is essential to the Act’s larger regulation of the interstate market for health insurance. (But) because the district court found the provision to be authorized by the Commerce Clause, it declined to address whether it was a permissible tax under the General Welfare Clause." The Sixth Circuit followed suit.
Judge Jeffrey Sutton's portion of the opinion is seeming focal. As Law.com’s article yesterday afternoon related, "he calls 'plausible' the challengers' argument that a mandate to buy medical insurance 'crosses a line between regulating action and inaction, between regulating those who have entered a market and those who have not, one that the Court and Congress have never crossed before,' but adds that the government has the better arguments.
" 'The basic policy idea,' Sutton says, '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.'"