Yesterday, United States District Court Judge Roger Vinson heard oral arguments in the case brought by Florida and nineteen other states challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare’s requirement that all obtain health insurance or pay a penalty. Of course, the federal government is now calling it a tax, not a penalty when arguing its constitutionality, but that is beside the point here.
I thought you might be interested in some of the judge’s remarks during the argument. On the issue of whether Congress had the power to legislate this mandate under the interstate commerce clause, the court said,
It would be a giant leap for the Supreme Court to say that a decision to buy or not to buy is tantamount to activity…
Certainly the federal government can regulate when someone decides to engage in interstate commerce, but it seems that the judge has a problem with calling the simple decision of whether or not to engage in interstate commerce “an activity”.
An even more interesting discussion happened when the federal government’s attorney argued that the uninsured don’t pay for their health care, so that cost is spread among those who are insured. Thus, requiring everyone to have insurance solves this problem. The judge took issue with this by explaining that,
he was uninsured in law school when his son was born, and joked that the delivery bill came to about $100 per pound. “I paid it,” [said the judge].
Ouch, be careful you know the judge’s background before you advance an argument.
And, when Florida’s attorney argued that if it was constitutional for the federal government to require that all buy insurance, what else could they do, the judge said,
[i]f they decide that everyone needs to eat broccoli,” then the commerce clause could allow Congress to require everyone to buy a certain quantity of broccoli…
A decision is expected early next year.
What will be very interesting, though, is how the court deals with the severability issue. Absent the individual mandate, Obamacare will mean the death of private insurance on a much faster pace than will otherwise most assuredly occur.