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Court says mandating health insurance unconstitutional

Posted Dec 13 2010 1:11pm

Monday, December 13th, 2010

By Kester Freeman
Former CEO, Palmetto Health

Some important developments today in regard to whether citizens in this country will be required by law to purchase health insurance. A federal judge has ruled that it is unconstitutional to require people purchase health insurance but this is not the last word on the issue. Attorneys say they will now try and bypass the appeals court and move the case directly to the Supreme Court.

The Washington Post reports that U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson found that Congress could not order individuals to buy health insurance.  The judge ruled that the provision of the law that requires most individuals to get insurance or pay a fine by 2014 is an unprecedented expansion of federal power that cannot be supported by Congress's power to regulate interstate trade.

Here is a portion of the judge's opinion:

"Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market," he wrote. "In doing so, enactment of the [individual mandate] exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I [of the Constitution.]

Hudson is the first judge to rule that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. He said, however, that other portions of the law are legal and can proceed.

Here is how our blog team of former healthcare CEOs is reacting to this decision:

Don Ammon / Former CEO, Adventist Health System West
"I personally support the action and I realize that can be considered political.  However I would hope that this action and the change in the November election would bring this major legislation back for a more serious and deliberate discussion of the options so as to bring forth a program that we can afford and can be implemented.  I hesitate to be too sure of what might happen because there is still a lot of pending litigation."

Mike Stephens / Former CEO, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian
"Apparently we value protections against the damages from an uninsured motorist more than we do protection from the medical expenses imposed on all of us because those who refused to purchase insurance incur medical expenses that are passed on to all of us. I believe the term is moral hazard.

I know some would say automobile insurance is a state regulated matter and not federal.  My response is that more than 50 percent of healthcare expenditures are financed by federal payments through Medicare and Medicaid. That makes a federal insurance mandate a federal matter."

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