Friday, October 8, 2010


Health Care reform supporters won a victory this week in Michigan, when a federal judge in Detroit rejected an attempt to overturn the individual mandate provision of PPACA.

Judge George Steeh ruled that Congress did not exceed its authority in requiring that almost all Americans have health insurance by 2014, or pay a penalty.

The plaintiffs, from the Thomas More Law Center, had argued that the individual mandate violated the Commerce clause of the Constitution in attempting to regulate an “inactivity” (the non-purchase of insurance).

The Judge cited Supreme Court rulings in which the Commerce clause had been extended to the growing of both wheat and marijuana for personal use, finding that such cultivation impacted the larger market, and also noted that the failure of some to purchase insurance inevitably resulted in higher costs for others. Interestingly, he also found that the issue was “ripe” for judicial determination, even though the mandate does not come into force until 2014, apparently accepting the plaintiffs’ argument that they would have to make financial decisions considerably before that time.

While Judge Steeh’s ruling is definitely a victory for reformers, it may be a short-lived one. Similar cases in Florida and Virginia are about to go to trial, possibly with judges less inclined to take a broader view of the extent of the Commerce clause. Ultimately, however, it will be up to the Supreme Court to rule on the individual mandate—and that may be two or more years in the future.

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