Meds, Mind, Body & Benefits > Insurance, Benefits Programs & HIV

Health Care Reform Unconstitutional?


JR Gabbard:
No it isn't, despite what you may have heard.

I just read the court's decision in the Virginia challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA--the healthcare reform that passed last year).  In it, Judge Hudson decided that the requirement that everyone secure health insurance violates the US Constitution.  The problem is that Judge Hudson made a huge error in his legal reasoning that will be difficult for the Court of Appeals to adopt.

First, a really brief primer on US Constitutional law.  The Constitution limits the power of the US government by naming areas that it can regulate.  The so-called Commerce clause of the Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce.  The Constitution also includes an enacting clause, the so-called Necessary and Proper clause, that gives Congress power to enact laws that are "necessary and proper" to regulate interstate commerce in this case.  The "necessary and proper" clause is dependent on Congress having power to act under some other constitutional clause.  It also gives Congress power to enact laws that might not be directly named in the Constitution, so long as the law is reasonable related to a named power.

In the ACA, Congress identified health insurance as being part of interstate commerce, and claimed power to regulate it under the Commerce clause.  Then, under the "necessary and proper" clause they had the power to enact regulations that are reasonably related to health care, which in this case included a mandate that everyone purchase health insurance.

Judge Hudson's ruling collapses those two concepts into one.  He doesn't say that Congress lacked the power to regulate the health insurance industry, which is the power that Congress claimed under the Commerce clause.  He focused on the regulation itself, and decided that refusing to purchase health insurance is not an "activity" that Congress can regulate under the Commerce clause, and therefor the Necessary and Proper clause did not matter in the analysis.  His logic in arriving at the conclusion that refusing to purchase health insurance is not an "activity" is somewhat faulty, but putting that aside, he misapplied the law.  And he did it in a way that would have earned him a failing grade on a law school exam.

Some appeals court may find some other reason to declare ACA unconstitutional, or the Supreme Court might decide to make new law with this issue, but I don't see Judge Hudson's reasoning prevailing in any higher court.  If it does, I'll make a very long post listing all the federal regulations and programs that would then be on the chopping block.

Jeff G:
That ruling is a reminder that decisions from the courts can often be partisan  .

Not to mention that "Henry E. Hudson, the federal judge in Virginia who just ruled health care reform unconstitutional, owns between $15,000 and $50,000 in a GOP political consulting firm that worked against health care reform."

Judge Who Ruled Health Care Reform Unconstitutional Owns Piece of GOP Consulting Firm


Gee, isn't that classy of him.


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