Is The Mandate for Health Care Constitutional?

                                                                        By Roger Caldwell


The Affordable Care Act is President Obama’s controversial healthcare reform law, which is supposed to revolutionize healthcare in America. This is his signature piece of legislation that will make history, and leave his legacy as a great president. In March 2010, the president signed the measure into law with 300 supporters at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

From the very inception of the law, the conservatives, the Republicans, and religious groups were adamantly opposed to the mandate portion of the law. The mandate portion of the bill essentially stated that all Americans must have healthcare insurance by 2014, or they would be subject to a penalty. This portion of the bill has generated an intense fight to establish if the bill is constitutional.

President Obama and his administration have always maintained that the bill is constitutional and the majority of Americans are in support of the legislation. “The bill I’m signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see. Today we are affirming that essential truth, a truth every generation is called to rediscovery for itself, that we are not a nation that scales back its aspirations,” said President Obama in 2010.

But since the president has signed the bill 29 states has sued the government, and are determined to repeal the entire law. They believe that the government is overstepping their authority, and the law is unconstitutional. The opponents of the bill have drawn a line in the sand and they are at war.

The law will have to be resolved by the Supreme Court and last week they held a hearing for three days before they take a vote. The oral arguments and tough questions from all nine justices have created different sides, with four conservative justices against four liberal justices. It appears that the deciding or swing vote will come from Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, and no one can figure out how he will vote.

The final vote on this legislation will have far reaching affects on the election and the power of Congress. Many believe that President Obama will be faced with a harder election if the Supreme Court decides that the mandate portion of the bill is unconstitutional. President Obama has always been considered a master at constitutional law and losing any portion of this law would force legal scholars to question his credibility.

The Solicitor General Donald Verrilli was asked to answer the Supreme Court justices’ questions and some think he did a poor job articulating the president and his administration’s position. Some of the questions that the justices asked Mr. Verrilli bordered on the absurd, but the question was related to the essence of the health care law.

Justice Scalia asked a question about broccoli and it has become famous. “Everyone has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food. Therefore everyone is in the market. Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli,” said Justice Scalia and Justice Samuel Alito.

Mr. Verrilli tried to answer this question that a decision not to buy broccoli doesn’t increase the price others must pay for broccoli in the same way that a decision to forgo health insurance increases the premiums others must pay for health insurance. The Affordable Care Act is built around if everyone buys health insurance the price of health care goes down.  

Sometime in June the Supreme Court will render their decision and the opposing sides will see who is right. Until the Supreme Court gives their decision on the constitutionality of the law, the two sides will continue to argue.