The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Opposing Viewpoints: Legal Precedent Will Find Health Care Law Constitutional

2 min read

This past week in Florida, a federal judge claimed that President Obama’s health care plan was unconstitutional. Republican and Tea Party members vehemently oppose health care and doubt its constitutionality, as well as the expanded role the federal government has taken.

The only industrialized nation to not ensure health care to every citizen is the United States. Whether the Affordable Care Act is the answer to health care in this country or not, it is most certainly constitutional.

Former Ronald Reagan Solicitor General Charles Fried testified at a Senate hearing on “The Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.”  According to Fried, the Act is absolutely constitutional under the Commerce Clause, in Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution.

The Commerce Clause allows Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations, as well as among states and Indian tribes. In the 1824 case Gibbons v. Ogden, Chief Justice John Marshall said that Congress’ commerce power means power to regulate, or to “proscribe rule by which commerce is governed.”

Insurance was considered commerce in the 1944 Supreme Court case United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters. Therefore, Congress surely has the power to regulate health insurance. The individual mandate, which forces every citizen to purchase health insurance, is part of a law to regulate insurance, which is commerce.

According to Forbes, health care costs in this country constitutes nearly 16 percent of our gross domestic product, further supporting the argument that insurance is commerce.

Fried continues his argument to the 1819 case, McCulloch v. Maryland, which stated, “the powers given to the government imply the ordinary means of execution.” The government has the power to act, which allows for regulation.

In this case, the question at hand was the creation of a federal bank. Although the Constitution does not confront the issue of a national bank directly, Congress still had the power to create such a bank to “facilitate national security and interstate commerce” says Los Angeles Times writer Akhil Reed Amar. He writes, “Obamacare is no different.”

Fried said the individual mandate is essential to the regulation of health insurance, which is completely within the government’s authority.

Amar points out that Obamacare does not mandate every citizen to purchase insurance, but those who remain uninsured must pay a tax. The federal judge in Florida claims this is unconstitutional under Congress’ tax powers. However, according to Amar, this is untrue and reinforced by the 1913 Income Tax Amendment.

The legal arguments over the bill disregard its ultimate purpose, which is to fix health care in the United States.

The major problem is people believe any new role of government is a limitation to personal freedom. Health care needs to be viewed as a right to every citizen, rather than an industry to be unregulated by federal authorities.