Today, Federal District Court Judge Christopher Conner of the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled that Obamacare’s requirement, that all must purchase health insurance, is unconstitutional. You can read the entire opinion here.
The court held (at page 2) that,
The power to regulate interstate commerce does not subsume the power to dictate a lifetime financial committment to health insurance coverage.
The court undertakes an excellent analysis of the Sixth Circuit opinion, finding the mandate constitutional, beginning at page 19, and the Eleventh Circuit opinion, finding the mandate unconstitutional, beginning at page 23. Regardless of your view of either opinion, that section of Judge Connor’s opinion is definately worth reading.
But, Judge Connor’s opinion, unlike any of its predecessors does something unique.
Judge Connor not only throws out the individual mandate, but he also throws out the law’s requirement that all insurance companies must cover all applicants regardless of their health condition (guaranteed issue), and, regardless of their health condition, must charge the same premium as they would for a person with no health issues (community rating).
The government has always maintained that the individual mandate is the only “solution” to Obamacare’s requirement of guaranteed issue and community rating. Indeed, at oral argument before Judge Conner, the government claimed that the individual mandate, guaranteed issue and community rating “are absolutely intertwined”. (see page 47)
Of course, the government used that argument to claim that the mandate must be constitutional because of what the law requires the insurance companies to do.
Judge Conner turned that argument on its head. He held that because he found the mandate was unconstitutional, the portions of the bill that were “intertwined” with it must also be thrown out.
Be careful what you argue.
Other than that, there is an interesting section of the opinion (see page 29) concerning a question posed by the court at oral argument.
The court asked counsel for the government to assume that because of the “aging” of Americans (aka, Baby Boomers), there is a shortage of beds in long term health care facilities. Could the federal government require all Americans purchase long term health care insurance?
By now you know the government’s answer.