On Monday, December 13, 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson ruled that forcing individuals to purchase health insurance was in violation of the Constitution's Commerce Clause. "Neither the Supreme Court nor any Federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market," Hudson wrote. "In doing so, enactment of the individual mandate exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I of the Constitution."
Judge Hudson is the first Federal judge to make such a ruling against the health care bill, signed into law in March of this year. The case, filed by Virginia by state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, argued on the AG's website that "buying health insurance can be said to be an act of commerce. However, if someone doesn't buy insurance, they are by definition not engaging in commerce. This legislation greatly oversteps the Commerce Clause."
The White House responded to today’s ruling by saying they still believe mandating that people buy health insurance is Constitutional and legal. The case will obviously be sent to the Court of Appeals for further adjudication, and most likely to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, Republicans, conservatives and many independents are overjoyed by the ruling and see it as a victory over unfair and unwanted legislation and over an administration that forced a law down the throats of an unwilling populace.
Some will say that forcing someone to buy health insurance is no different than forcing someone to buy automobile insurance. In fact, they are completely different. When you buy car insurance you are protecting other people from mistakes you may possibly make. Driving is a privilege that comes with certain responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is protecting other people from harm and/or financial loss. You may choose not to buy car insurance but you will lose your driving privileges if you do.
When you buy health insurance you’re protecting yourself from financial loss. Some people mistakenly believe health insurance is supposed to mean your health care will be free. That’s because they don’t understand insurance. Insurance is merely protection from catastrophic medical bills that you must pay for up front, even if you don’t use it. If you buy the right plan, the so-called “Cadillac plan”, it will pay 100% of your medical bills but you will pay a higher premium for it. Most health care plans cover a long list of medical treatments of various illnesses and accidents but they only pay part of the expense. The rest is paid by the individual. In other words, insurance is not normally a pay-all program but an assistance program.
People should not (and hopefully now will not) be forced to purchase health care insurance because the people they’re protecting (or not protecting) are themselves. Some will say they are protecting the tax payers from financial loss but the fact is, our health care system is designed to provide everyone with health care coverage even if they cannot afford insurance. And the law, as written, would require even people who can afford to buy the entire hospital to purchase health care insurance against their will. Why should people who can afford to pay cash for all medical treatment be forced to buy protection they don’t need? And if those people won’t be forced to buy insurance, why should anyone else? You can’t force only certain individuals to purchase health care insurance, can you?
Judge Hudson says “No.” And I have the utmost respect for him. Let’s see what happens when the government appeals his decision.