Thus far, it has been two “yeses” and one no; and the fight has only just began. One federal judge ruled that portions of the President’s healthcare package are unconstitutional; and two others dismissed challenges inferring just the opposite.
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
At present, there are over 24 lawsuits filed in federal courts challenging the Obama Healthcare Reform Law by states and private parties. Twenty-one states have challenged the law claiming that says the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause does not apply to economic inactivity, such as not buying health insurance, and that the law threatens state sovereignty. (For those who are too young to remember, state sovereignty is synonymous with state’s rights a very insidious term for Black people).
Last Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson ruled that the federal government could not compel a person to buy health insurance in a lawsuit brought by the attorney general of the state of Virginia on behalf of his state. The U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder is expected to appeal on behalf of the Obama administration. However, the judge did not invalidate the entire law, saying he could not determine if the law would stand without the individual mandate that required an individual to purchase health insurance under the threat of being fined.
Since Congress passed the law, the U.S. District Court for the Districts of New Jersey, Michigan and California have dismissed lawsuits filed challenging the law. The California case has been appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court. The challenges are basically the same: that the law violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and some have also included the fifth amendment and individual rights, among other issues.
If allowed to stand the issue, according to the challengers , in part, is that the federal government will be forcing people to buy things because the law’s ”individual mandate” requires that all Americans purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. The federal government counters that everyone will inevitably pay for healthcare, whether through insurance or during an emergency, and that without the individual mandate, premiums will rise.
Supporters of the law charge that it is similar in nature to liability insurance, a law in every state that protects the “other” driver(s). But the reality is, if the “individual mandate” is eventually held to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court – where many of these cases are destined for – would the remainder of the law be intact. And the supporters, some of the states come back with: without the “individual mandate,” the entire law is rendered toothless.
In addition to the aforementioned Commerce Clause challenge, supporters are also invoking the Supremacy Clause, which makes federal power supreme to states’ power. The flood of legal challengers to the law started within hours of President Obama signing the bill into law last March.
But as previously stated and many legal scholars agree, it will take the U.S. Supreme Court and beyond to settle this complex issue. It may have to be re-visited by the Congress.