Experts Question Enormous Cost and Constitutionality of Healthcare Legislation

The health care legislation backed by the president and congressional leaders will increase Americans’ health care costs by more than $200 billion, concludes an expert at the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

Earlier, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a lawyer, argued that the “individual mandate” in the health care bill legislation, which forces people to buy health insurance, is unconstitutional.  Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum likewise is questioning whether it is constitutional to force people to do so.

This so-called “individual mandate” is unprecedented and appears to exceed Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.  As the Congressional Budget Office noted in 1994, “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.”

As a news story notes, in Supreme Court rulings issued in 1995 and 2000, “the high court said the commerce clause is limited to economic activities that substantially affect interstate trade.”  (I was an attorney in the latter ruling, United States v. Morrison (2000).)  As UPI notes, “the weight of Supreme Court jurisprudence seems to favor a Commerce Clause challenge” to the health care legislation.

The individual mandate does not regulate activities, much less economic activities, but rather inactivity, by penalizing those who decline to buy health insurance. That exceeds Congress’s powers under the Supreme Court’s Morrison ruling, as I explained earlier.

The health care legislation also contains unconstitutional racial preferences for minority applicants, and lower standards of care for patients in predominantly-minority institutions.  These drew criticism from the Civil Rights Commission.

Most Americans oppose the health care legislation. It would reduce lifesaving medical innovation, raise taxes, drive up insurance premiums and the deficit, break many campaign promises, and impose heavy burdens on state budgets.  It  would also jeopardize the quality of medical care for many, while imposing restrictions that failed when tried at the state level, and ignoring advice from federal and academic experts, and lessons from countries with universal health care, about how to keep costs down.