Obamacare does not violate the US Constitution

This is an early skirmish in what will be a protracted war over the Affordable Health Care Act, but a federal judge has ruled that the law’s requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance does not violate the US Constitution. From The NYT:

Two other cases with higher profiles, one in Florida and one in Virginia, are headed toward hearings on the issues that were decided in Michigan. The central question, which may ultimately fall to the Supreme Court, is whether the Commerce Clause of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to require citizens to obtain a commercial product, namely health insurance. . .

Judge George C. Steeh of Federal District Court in Detroit ruled that choosing not to obtain insurance qualified as an example of “activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.” That is the standard set by the Supreme Court for Congress’s compliance with the Commerce Clause.

Judge Steeh, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, agreed with the federal government that not obtaining health coverage is effectively an active decision to pay for medical care out of pocket. “These decisions, viewed in the aggregate,” Judge Steeh wrote, “have clear and direct impacts on health care providers, taxpayers and the insured population who ultimately pay for the care provided to those who go without insurance.”

While conservatives around the country are rallying to have the law tossed out in court, most legal experts believe the requirement to purchase health insurance is perfectly legal. You’ve no doubt heard about the case in Tennessee where a fire department allowed a family’s house to burn down because they had not purchased fire protection, a form of insurance. My colleague Jay Bookman and other bloggers have compared that to the requirement for health insurance:

The situation is in many ways analogous to the health care debate, where folks skate without insurance until something goes wrong and they show up in an emergency room, where the law says they have to be treated.

Do we instead do what the South Fulton fire chief did, refusing available treatment to fellow human beings even in life-threatening situations, because they gambled and didn’t buy insurance?

No, we don’t. At least not yet. Instead, the solution implemented in President Obama’s health-care reform — a solution initially proposed by conservatives — is to require that everyone carry insurance, so that the “free riders” are eliminated. That way everyone is covered, much like, in the example above, everyone in the city limits of South Fulton is required to pay taxes to support fire protection. (Again, the Cranicks live in unincorporated Obion County, where such coverage is optional.)

441 comments Add your comment

Keep up the good fight!

October 8th, 2010
7:11 am

What part of IT’S CONSTITUTIONAL don’t you understand? CT, would love a link to the actual decision if you have one….. I’m sure you are preparing for the daily barrage of personal attacks.

Wonder if our Governor will quit wasting money on political smokescreens while our water issues and government budget issues suffer….oh that’s right, looks like the Republicans are putting up a real crooked Deal who can’t even make proper disclosures and will likely make “millions” while in office. Now there’s “Country First!”

Booger Sandwich

October 8th, 2010
7:17 am

“Do we instead do what the South Fulton fire chief did, refusing available treatment to fellow human beings even in life-threatening situations, because they gambled and didn’t buy insurance?”

Absolutely, YES! They chose to gamble with their lives and should continue to do so.

granny godzilla

October 8th, 2010
7:19 am

Good news but no surprise.

Here’s a link for my good buddy Keep

Thanks to the good folks at Think Progress.

Keep up the good fight!

October 8th, 2010
7:22 am

Thanks Granny….I was still looking for one!

Ahhh see Rep Grayson was right when he said that Republicans/Right just want you to die. Booger says it all.

granny godzilla

October 8th, 2010
7:24 am

granny godzilla

October 8th, 2010
7:25 am

Keep

and die quickly…..

Keep up the good fight!

October 8th, 2010
7:26 am

Granny…it gets worse. 4 pets in the house also died. Guess if humans had been inside, the right would cheer, “burn baby burn.”

jt

October 8th, 2010
7:29 am

A libertarian Fireman would have put the fire out and charged accordingly.

A Government Worker Fireman watches it burn.

As far as the Federal court’s ruling is concerned, Jefferson had it right. You can not allow the federal court to determine what the federal government does.

They can rule all they want. The tsunami is coming.

sp

October 8th, 2010
7:30 am

So, how does this make it “affordable” to the homeless and unemployed? I see another entitlement program in the future…

AFret

October 8th, 2010
7:31 am

“Everyone in the city limits of South Fulton is required to pay taxes to support fire protection.” I don’t think so! Employed people and property owners pay taxes to support city infrastructure. Not everyone. People living in government subsidised housing, collecting welfare and surviving of the government teat are not pauing taxes!!

paleo-neo-Carlinist

October 8th, 2010
7:32 am

tough call, and I think “promote the general Welfare” may make an appearance as well. this is why the cynic in me sees the Constution as a sort of legal Ponzi scheme or a rigged game. is it possible to “separate” commerce and law? check with the trial lawyers lobby (or maybe the State’s prosecution of the “war on drugs” vis a vis Big Pharm and Big Alcohol)? if you think I am silly, consider that Ben Franklin was one of America’s first insurance agents. it kind of put a whole different spin on his “those who would trade freedom for security deserve neither” quip. what is health insurance but a form of “security”? and I would argue false security. I am not as enthusiastic or venomous as some of the others on this blog, but the current Healthcare boondoggle is a jobs program for Big Med, Big Pharm and Big Insurance.

I Report :-) You Whine :-( mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

October 8th, 2010
7:35 am

One errant ruling does not a Constitutional decision make, just sayin…

The lib punted, as usual.

Keep up the good fight!

October 8th, 2010
7:39 am

sp…again the point is missed. This is not about healthcare. There are already laws that required no one be left outside the emergency room to die because they cannot pay. We all pay for the uninsured–whether the uninsured can afford insurance or not. Part of the HC insurance reform is to put the costs of the “freeloader” where it should be, by requiring they have insurance.

I think it is still a mess. Its a step in the right direction and the crazy cons are completely wrong on the “let them die if they dont have insurance” theory. I agree with Carlin that right now this helps Big Insurance and other too much. Unfortunately the public option and single payer were not politically feasible…hopefully when the lies and disinformation stop and the Party of No starts to work for America, then maybe we can get there. Americans are for HC reform when discussed in its components…what they are “against” is the beliefs created by the lies of the right.

Booger Sandwich

October 8th, 2010
7:39 am

The Judge, A Clinton Appointee. That says it all.

You pay for the service or suffer the consequences. Its not my business what happens or doesnt happen to the other fellow until it begins affecting my pocketbook.

HavocMaker

October 8th, 2010
7:40 am

What else would you expect from a Clinton appointee. I think it would be news had it been a conservative making this decision. There is nothing really interesting to see here, move along.

Off to a job interview, wish me luck.

Note to Granny – How is the grand baby doing?

HAVOC.

Jack

October 8th, 2010
7:44 am

I pay for my health insurance. I just don’t want to pay insurance premiums for those that spend their money on cigarettes, alcohol and lotto tickets and houses they can’t afford.

Peadawg

October 8th, 2010
7:46 am

But it is going to cut into Medicare and cause hc premiums to sky rocket(even more than they have been), instead of lowering them like Obama said.

Keep up the good fight!

October 8th, 2010
7:47 am

Well, Jack, you should be glad that those “people” you claim are out there, will now have to buy insurance. It takes the “freeloaders” out of your wallet and makes them pay. You can smile all day now.

granny godzilla

October 8th, 2010
7:49 am

Jack

You pay for their care now.

Would you like to handle that in a smarter way?

Joel Edge

October 8th, 2010
7:50 am

“and other bloggers have compared that to the requirement for health insurance”
I think most of the “other bloggers” have compared it to a shake down of the home owners, Is this what it’s come to? The government is going to become the enforcer for the insurance companies.

Keep up the good fight!

October 8th, 2010
7:50 am

Pea… your “contrarian predictions” await to be seen. Perhaps you should be urging single payer or public option not a return to insanity…but this is the start of a kick in the teeth of those who scream “its unconstitutional” when it is not. It is sanity!

JKL2

October 8th, 2010
7:54 am

granny- Let a man’s house burn down over 75 bucks?

I bet they buy insurance next time.

Peadawg

October 8th, 2010
7:57 am

“Perhaps you should be urging single payer or public option”

It seems like Obama wanted that the entire time. He’s trying to make hc cost so bad that we’ll be begging to go to a public option. Sure, you won’t get denied anymore for pre-existing conditions…but it’ll cost ya a shyt load of money. What you see as “contrarian conditions”, I see as common sense.

JKL2

October 8th, 2010
7:57 am

A liberal activist judge declares something Constitutional. Who would have ever thought. You can put lipstick ona a pig, but it’s still a pig…

arnold

October 8th, 2010
7:58 am

Granny… The right wingnuts can’t handle anything in a smarter way. To be knowledgeable is to be elitist. That’s a no no.

JKL2

October 8th, 2010
8:00 am

Keep-

Drill, Baby, Drill. How’s that Dept of Energy thing working out for you? You want to talk about a liberal piece of crap that needs to be cut from the budget.

Keep up the good fight!

October 8th, 2010
8:02 am

JKL — oh yes…it was a very smart decision by the fire department. The pets who died, the other homes endangered, the family may not be able to pay other bills, the property value is lost so the county loses part of its tax base, and the owner as well as his neighbors offered to pay all costs when the fire dept arrive. I am sure there are many other costs associated but hey, would you like to throw in a dead body to get the “point” across. How many dead bodies do you want to prove the point? Is one enough? Maybe oh lets say, 1,000? 10,000? What if the family could not afford the $75? What if they had actually paid and there was a clerical error?

Peadawg

October 8th, 2010
8:03 am

But…but…but everyone has to own car insurance. What’s the difference?

Just thought I’d get that out of the way…:roll:

JKL2

October 8th, 2010
8:04 am

paleo- consider that Ben Franklin was one of America’s first insurance agents

Was it something he sold as a business, or did he have the government buy it for everyone?

Keep up the good fight!

October 8th, 2010
8:04 am

JKL…now let’s keep on point..but to borrow a phrase. “liberal piece of crap” — you need a sign today!

Larry

October 8th, 2010
8:04 am

This would be fine if the “freeloaders” were required to pay for it. But no, we will increase costs for everyone ansdd we will still have “freeloaders” showing up at the emergency rooms getting care as required by law and all we’ve done is add cost and red tape. Nice solution.
Regarding constitutionality, since people in Nebraska, Louisiana and Dade County Florida are treated differently, as well as those who belong to certain unions, how is a law constitution when it changes the provisions of the law for those in differing occupations or locations? Just asking…

granny godzilla

October 8th, 2010
8:05 am

JKL2

Did you ever find any back up for that apparently completely made up quote you threw out yesterday?

The 75 bucks was not insurance and he was paid up on his property taxes – those same property taxes that were used to buy the fire trucks that would not put out the fire. All this info is available to the public if they bother to look.

Same with quotes….

Tech Man

October 8th, 2010
8:06 am

granny godzilla
October 8th, 2010
7:24 am

It shows you how the government thinks and works :)

Keep up the good fight!

October 8th, 2010
8:07 am

Pea..absolutely right. Everyone who drives a car must have insurance. Some people dont have a car. Everyone who has a body must have insurance. Now if you don’t have a body that may need healthcare, I all for exempting you.

Bob

October 8th, 2010
8:09 am

We already see the admin issuing waivers to companies like McDonalds. When gov starts issuing waivers to some and not others, then we will see more lawsuits. The left will not care about equal treatment under the law when some get waivers and some get screwed.

JKL2

October 8th, 2010
8:09 am

keep- the owner as well as his neighbors offered to pay all costs when the fire dept arrive

At least you understand how obamacare is supposed to work. Wait until you have an emergency then hand the man $20 to get $1 million worth of benefit. I’m dying to open a business like that…

granny godzilla

October 8th, 2010
8:09 am

JKL2

I bet our liberal activist judge could take the conservative activists judges who overthrew decades of precedent on campaign finance reform in the Citizens United decision allowing the Chamber of Commerce and other front groups to let foreign entities buy our election.

Working on backing up that quote yet?

Thinking maybe about saying you’re sorry for such a big fat lie?

Booger Sandwich

October 8th, 2010
8:10 am

Just allow a few people to show up at the hospitals and received no treatment make national news then perhaps the freeloaders will get the message. Unfortunately negative reinforcement seems to be the best teacher for most. This mollycoddling and hand-holding only causes more problems.

granny godzilla

October 8th, 2010
8:10 am

Bob

Do you not approve of the President attempt to aid business?

Are you anti-business?

Jimmy62

October 8th, 2010
8:11 am

This is simple. The judge is wrong. Or right, if you believe the Interstate Commerce Clause gives Congress the right to do whatever it wants whenever it wants. And that’s a crock of you know what, the Constitution was designed to limit the power of government (it’s called freedom), not to give government to power to do whatever it feels like (that’s called tyranny).

As far as the fire situation…. Once the homeowner offered to pay for the entire cost of fighting the fire, they should have helped him. And if he refused to pay, they should have let it burn. Someone has to pay for the fire department, and only those willing to support it should get its services.

Your misfortune does not give you any right to a part of my life.

Larry

October 8th, 2010
8:12 am

Your body is part of your being, a car is something you buy. If you follow that argument too far, you get into the whole women’s rights issue of telling people what they may or may not do to “their body” and while I personally oppose abortion, I think this government mandate stretches the boundaries too far and will eventually be a bigger financial disaster than SS and Medicare combined.

Booger Sandwich

October 8th, 2010
8:13 am

Its sad but funny about this idiot allowing his house to burn down. LOL!!

Guess he learned a very valuable lesson.

Tech Man

October 8th, 2010
8:13 am

Other Suits May Present Greater Challenge For Administration. Politico (10/8, Gerstein) cautions that “the government’s legal position may not fare as well in two other major lawsuits pending in other federal courts challenging the individual mandate.” Politico adds that “in August, a federal judge in Virginia refused to dismiss a lawsuit the state brought against the legislation that critics deride as Obamacare. That judge said the legal questions in the case were too close to dismiss at an early stage.” And “another suit, brought by 20 states and a small-business group, is pending in Florida. No ruling has been issued yet, but after arguments last month, many observers said the judge seemed receptive to arguments that the healthcare reform law is unconstitutional.”

Likewise, CQ HealthBeat (10/8, Norman, subscription required) notes, “This is the first judge who has dismissed a challenge to the law,” yet “it is far from the only legal action. Suits against the law are pending in Florida, where 20 state attorneys general have joined together, and in Virginia.”

Keep up the good fight!

October 8th, 2010
8:16 am

JKL..no, its shows the stupidity of offering a vital service on a subscription basis. But in fact, even under that silly model, the fire department could have put out the fire and billed the family the actual cost to save their home plus a penalty.

Healthcare is to work by requiring that everyone buy insurance in advance. You continue the silliness of your arguments when you fail to recognize that right now when the uninsured shows up at the emergency room, they get treated.

Bob, as for waivers, it is a temporary waiver for 1 year of a program that fails to meet the $0.85 of every dollar should be spend on healthcare requirement for part time employees because of allegedly high administrative costs. There are always things like this in new programs.

Peadawg

October 8th, 2010
8:17 am

“Everyone who drives a car must have insurance. ”

That was my point. Everyone doesn’t have to have insurance like some say. I was being sarcastic.

Larry, I never thought of it that way…good point w/ the women’s rights analogy.

Booger Sandwich

October 8th, 2010
8:17 am

The President, as you refer to him, is no more than a Circus Barker, a Gameshow Host, a Poser who is Anti-business. Were it up to him he would appoint himself Emporer and take over and have the govt in charge and operating everything.

Obama is intelligent, however, he is lacking in common sense. But come 2012 elections that wont matter.

Jethro

October 8th, 2010
8:18 am

79,000 Social Security stimulus checks for $250 each were recently sent out to deceased folks. 79,000 X =$19,750,000.00. That’s what they noticed. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. How much gets by in SS and Medicare and Medicaid?

Now we want to add health insurance to the mix. Government insurance, private insurance, all mandatory. You think the Pentagon’s bad with it’s waste? Try health care.

The boondoggle for conservatives is defense spending. The boondoggle for liberals is health care. You want to champion the cause, but you don’t want to put the sweat into managing the programs efficiently. It’s more important to create a witty soundbite for the camera criticizing a program – be it defense or health care – than it is to create a workable solution for reducing the costs associated with those programs.

We need another political party. Surely there are enough disaffected Democrats and Republicans to unite and create a party that eschews the extreme liberal or conservative leanings that are grinding our country to a standstill.

Please. I don’t want to wake up in the United States of China when I’m 70. China won’t invade. They’ll simply buy us out of foreclosure.

Booger Sandwich

October 8th, 2010
8:18 am

“There are always things like this in new programs.”

Yes, there are always excuses being made constantly by the left and their constituency.

granny godzilla

October 8th, 2010
8:18 am

Tech Man

Yep Republican Government…..Stepping over dollars to pick up dimes….

“But last December, a county commission on which every member is a Republican voted to rescind a resolution passed years earlier that would have established a countywide fire department. Their rationale was, of course, the need to keep taxes low, but according to the county commission report, that decision was penny wise but pound foolish. “Because there is no operational county fire department,” the officials noted, “Obion County has missed the opportunity to actively pursue receipt of FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars of funding.”

From TruthOut

Repeat for emphasis

hundreds of thousands of dollars

Tech Man

October 8th, 2010
8:19 am

Keep up the good fight!
October 8th, 2010
8:16 am

There are always things like this in new programs.
_______

In unthought out, ill-executed rushed plans, yes.