A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that a provision of the recently enacted health care reform law [HR 3590 text; JURIST news archive] requiring all individuals to maintain health insurance or pay a penalty is constitutional. The suit [complaint, PDF], filed in March by conservative public interest group the Thomas More Law Center [advocacy website], on the same day President Barack Obama signed the bill into law [JURIST report], argued that the mandate that all individuals carry health insurance was unconstitutional. Judge George Steeh found that Congress has the constitutional authority to require all individuals to buy health care insurance through the Commerce Clause:
There is a rational basis to conclude that, in the aggregate, decisions to forego insurance coverage in preference to attempting to pay for health care out of pocket drive up the cost of insurance. The costs of caring for the uninsured who prove unable to pay are shifted to health care providers, to the insured population in the form of higher premiums, to governments, and to taxpayers. The decision whether to purchase insurance or to attempt to pay for health care out of pocket, is plainly economic. These decisions, viewed in the aggregate, 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. These are the economic effects addressed by Congress in enacting the Act and the minimum coverage provision.Steeh also found that a penalty against those who do not have health insurance would not be an unconstitutional direct tax. The Thomas More Law Center plans to appeal [press release].
The Obama administration is also facing various other health care lawsuits. In June, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) [association website], a small business lobby group, joined a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] challenging the constitutionality of the health care reform law. The NFIB joined 20 states in a legal battle that began in March when a complaint seeking injunction and declaratory relief was filed in a Florida federal court. In May, the Obama administration filed a brief [text, PDF] urging the dismissal [JURIST report] of a lawsuit brought by the state of Virginia challenging the constitutionality of the law, but, in August, a federal judge announced he would allow the case to proceed [JURIST report].