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Court Battle Likely Over Health Care Insurance Requirement

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, January 18, 2010 5:20 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Health Care Reform, Caps, Uninsured, Insurance, Grassley, SB 1488, Big Insurance, Individual Mandate, AHIP

Individual mandate could ultimately be in front of the U.S. Supreme Court if some Attorneys General have their way.

Individual Mandate


IMAGE SOURCE: iStockphoto/ sick money/ author: Elnur

It seems no one is happy with health care reform and the latest salvo has been fired over the proposed requirement that everyone buy health insurance.

The individual mandate, as it’s called has conservatives, who oppose health care overhaul, threatening to challenge it on constitutional grounds, reports NPR.

Chuck Grassley, the Republican Senator from Iowa who used to support everyone buying health insurance, said the federal requirement hasn’t been tried before.

“You as an individual can do whatever you want to, buy whatever you want to, when you want to, where you want to get it, but now the federal government’s saying you have to buy health insurance.”

A number of other Republicans have joined Grassley, including Florida Republican Attorney General, Bill McCollum who sent a letter in December, urging other attorneys general to explore a constitutional challenge.

Expect the issue to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, says Georgetown University law professor, Randy Barnett to NPR. Congress cannot mandate people buying health insurance under its current powers, he says.

"Never in the history of the United States has the federal government ever required someone to engage in an economic activity with a private party. It's never been done, and anything that's never been done before has no precedent for it," he said. "It would have to be a new decision by the Supreme Court to uphold this new extension of power. And if they uphold this, then there's pretty much nothing that Congress can't do and that's the end of the enumerated power scheme."

NPR, in a radio story, quotes a Fordham University law school dean who says there is a well-established precedent that Congress can do under a commerce clause power.

Commenters say they are required to buy auto insurance so there is no difference. Other commenters say that auto insurance is mandated by the states and is only mandated in most states to cover third-party injuries such as pedestrians or the uninsured.

Those with pre-existing conditions feel the individual mandate will be subjected to higher rates by for-profit insurance companies.

Big Insurance

Insurance companies support the individual mandate, because they are the beneficiaries of it. With a consumer base for private insurance dropping due to soaring premiums, dropping salaries, and baby boomers increasingly enrolling in Medicare, the government funded health insurance program for seniors, the individual mandate assures millions of new customers overnight.

While America’s Health Insurance Plans, the lobby for the insurance industry, appears to be on board with the individual mandate there are no assurances that those with a pre-existing condition will also find their insurance “affordable.”

A New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) Health Care 2009 Perspective story says that the individual mandate will require government subsidies to help everyone afford insurance.

Ultimately that could mean 45 million new customers, the estimated number of people in the U.S. who are currently uninsured. #

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