Opponents of the health care bill that was signed into law today by President Obama are already arguing that it’s not constitutional. Many people are asking where the US Constitution gives Congress the right to force people to buy a product.
The answers are these:
1. Under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, Congress can mandate individuals to take a particular action as long as it affects interstate commerce. Interstate commerce encompasses all forms of communication and transportation and all movements of people and things across state lines. Without question, health care and health coverage are issues that affect interstate commerce; therefore, Congress can regulate them.
2. The Constitution grants Congress the right to tax Americans. If Congress decides to that everyone who does X or who fails to do Y owes a tax of $750, then those who do X and those who don’t do Y legally owe that tax. Notably, the individual mandate to buy health insurance, which says that anyone who doesn’t purchase coverage will have to pay a penalty, has been inserted into the tax code.
Whether or not people agree with the health care bill, opposing it on legal grounds is probably not the best use of their time and energy. Instead, we can try to support the immediate improvements the country will see this year, including an end to exclusion for pre-existing conditions, to lifetime caps on payments, and to dropped coverage for becoming sick.