'Obamacare' Health Care Law Constitutional, 6th Cir. Rules

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on June 30, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Is the health care law constitutional?

Though it's far from a definitive answer, in the first of three appellate court decisions expected this year, the 6th Circuit ruled on Wednesday in favor of last year's health care reform bill, finding that Congress does have the authority to mandate that citizens purchase insurance.

As all of these cases do, it all came down to the Commerce Clause.

Under the Constitution's Commerce Clause, Congress has the authority to regulate activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.

In finding the health care law constitutional, the 6th Circuit described the impact of the uninsured on the price of health care insurance and services across the country.

It argued that the unpaid medical costs of the uninsured are shifted to private insurers, and then passed on to families and businesses. This, in turn, raises premiums, which drives up the cost of health care across the country.

By requiring self-insurance, the health care law directly lowers the cost of commodities in the interstate market for health care.

Even if this weren't true, the Commerce Clause also allows Congress to regulate non-economic activities that are an essential part of a larger scheme that does regulate economic activity.

According to the 6th Circuit, the health care law, at its very essence, deals with the insurance market, and the individual insurance mandate is an essential part of reaching the law's goals.

From the decision alone, these appear to be fairly sound arguments, but there is still a very good chance that they will be rejected by both the 4th and 11th Circuits later this year.

So while this is a win for the Obama Administration, nothing is set in stone until the Supreme Court finds the health care law constitutional (or not) in the next few years.

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