Judge Rules Individual Mandate Is Constitutional

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In the first decision of its kind, a federal judge in Michigan has ruled that the individual mandate included in the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. Ben Smith at Politico posted a crucial piece of the judge’s ruling, which states that the federal government has power – via the Commerce Clause – to require Americans to maintain insurance:

The health care market is unlike other markets. No one can guarantee his or her health, or ensure that he or she will never participate in the health care market. Indeed, the opposite is nearly always true. The question is how participants in the health care market pay for medical expenses – through insurance, or through an attempt to pay out of pocket with a backstop of uncompensated care funded by third parties.

This phenomenon of cost- shifting is what makes the health care market unique. Far from “inactivity,” by choosing to forgo insurance plaintiffs are making an economic decision to try to pay for health care services later, out of pocket, rather than now through the purchase of insurance,collectively shifting billions of dollars, $43 billion in 2008, onto other market participants….

The plaintiffs have not opted out of the health care services market because, as living, breathing beings, who do not oppose medical services on religious grounds, they cannot opt out of this market. As inseparable and integral members of the health care services market, plaintiffs have made a choice regarding the method of payment for the services they expect to receive. The government makes the apropos analogy of paying by credit card rather than by check. How participants in the health care services market pay for such services has a documented impact on interstate commerce. Obviously, this market reality forms the rational basis for Congressional action designed to reduce the number of uninsureds.

Lawsuits elsewhere are ongoing, but this is a significant win for the Obama Administration.