Should Obamacare Be Struck Down In Its Entirety Rather Than Just Having Its Unconstitutional Parts Severed?

In his ruling striking down Obamacare’s individual mandate (requirement that people buy health insurance), Judge Hudson in Richmond declined to strike down the rest of the law, believing that the unconstitutional part of Obamacare, which violated constitutional federalism constraints, could be severed from the rest of the law. But the health care law lacks a severability clause, and lawyer Ken Klukowski filed a brief in Florida’s challenge to Obamacare explaining why the entire law should logically be struck down. In Reason, Peter Suderman explains why even if Obamacare is not struck down in its entirety, the courts should at least strike down some other provisions that are related to the individual mandate, such as Obamacare’s ban on insurers taking into account pre-existing conditions.

As I noted earlier in The Washington Examiner, “To justify preserving the rest of the law, the judge cited a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated part of a law — but kept the rest of it in force. But that case involved a law passed almost unanimously by Congress, which would have passed it even without the challenged provision. Obamacare is totally different. It was barely passed by a divided Congress, but only as a package. Supporters admitted that the unconstitutional part of it — the insurance mandate — was the law’s heart. Obamacare’s legion of special-interest giveaways that are ‘extraneous to health care’ does not alter that.” In short, Obamacare’s individual mandate is not “volitionally severable,” as case law requires.

Moreover, even if a single unconstitutional provision could be severed from Obamacare to preserve the remainder, that would not fix its other constitutional violations. The individual mandate, which exceeds Congress’ power under the Interstate Commerce Clause, is not the only unconstitutional provision in the health care law. Obamacare also violates the Tenth Amendment through Medicaid expansion provisions that transgress spending-clause limits applicable to federal-state programs, as I explain in an amicus brief for two governors in Florida v. HHS.

Law Professor James Blumstein, a constitutional and healthcare expert and advisor to Gov. Phil Bredesen (D-Tenn.), makes a different, but powerful, constitutional argument here that is also based on the Constitution’s spending clause.

Earlier, I discussed some of the bad effects of Obamacare on patients, employers, consumers, and the insurance market.