A Federal court judge ruled Thursday that Congress has the authority under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause to enact the individual mandate provision of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which requires consumers to purchase health care insurance or pay a penalty for failing to do so.
Judge George Steeh of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, held the mandate is supported by Supreme Court Court precedent; and that Congress’ power under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause extends to regulating “economic decisions,” and not just “economic activity.”
“[PPACA's] minimum coverage provision, which addresses economic decisions regarding health care services that everyone eventually, and inevitably, will need, is a reasonable means of effectuating Congress’s goal,” Judge Steeh wrote in a 20-page opinion. “While plaintiffs describe the Commerce Clause power as reaching economic activity, the government’s characterization of the Commerce Clause reaching economic decisions is more accurate.”
The case was brought by the Thomas More Law Center, Ann Arbor, Mich., which represented four Michigan plaintiffs in the suit. The plaintiffs argued, in part, that Congress has no authority to regulate “inactivity” under the Commerce Clause–in this case, an individual’s decision not to purchase health insurance under PPACA’s mandate.
The judge further ruled that PPACA’s penalty provision is also constitutional because it’s “incidental” to the act’s purpose. And he held that because Congress has the authority to impose the mandate, the court needn’t address Congress’s ability to tax under the constitution’s general welfare clause.
“The Act regulates a broader interstate market in health care services,” wrote Steeh. “This is not a market created by Congress; it is one created by the fundamental need for health care and the necessity of paying for such services received.