Thursday, October 14, 2010

Health Care Reform is Approved by Federal Court

I've been on vaca over the past week so pardon the late announcement, but in case you didn't know "Obamacare" had it's first Constitutional test on October 7, 2010 in the case Thomas More Law Center v. Obama (read the case HERE).   The specific issue at the heart of this case was the ever-so controversial provision in the new Health Care Reform ("HCR") law that requires Americans to buy health care coverage in 2014 or else pay a tax.  Some of you might recall that back in March we predicted the Top 5 Reasons why this provision of the HCR law would pass Constitutional muster if it ever found itself before a court.  Without getting into too much legalese, we basically said HCR would be found Constitutional because (A) health care insurance is interstate commerce and Congress (via the Commerce Clause) has the power to regulate interstate commerce, and (B) in case ya'll forgot, Congress has always had the power to Tax folks since Day 1.  The federal judge who heard the case in the Eastern District of Michigan's federal court basically said (A) health care insurance is interstate commerce and Congress (via the Commerce Clause) has the power to regulate interstate commerce, and (B) in case ya'll forgot, Congress has always had the power to Tax folks since Day 1 (sound familiar?)  So in other words, half a year later it turns out our prediction was right.  (now if we could just predict the winning lottery numbers...)

Taking a slightly closer look, the good people at the Thomas More Law Center sued the Obama administration basically saying that Congress overstepped its bounds with HCR.  In their complaint (which you can read HERE) they bring 6 claims:

CLAIM 1: Commerce Clause - Congress lacks authority under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to force private citizens, including Plaintiffs, under penalty of federal law, to purchase health care coverage. [The Court dismissed this claim in its entirety]

CLAIM 2: Tax - Congress lacks authority under the Constitution to impose a direct “tax” to enforce the mandate that private citizens purchase health care coverage under the Health Care Reform Act.  [The Court also dismissed this claim too]

CLAIM 3: 10th Amendment - the power to enact legislation such as the Health Care Reform Act is specifically reserved by the Constitution to the States, not the Federal Government.

CLAIM 4: 1st Amendment - By forcing Plaintiffs to contribute to the funding of abortion, the Health Care Reform Act violates Plaintiffs’ fundamental rights of conscience and the free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

CLAIM 5: 5th Amendment Equal Protection - By providing for some religious exemptions from the mandates of the Health Care Reform Act, but forcing Plaintiffs to contribute to the funding of abortion in violation of their deeply held religious convictions, Defendants have deprived Plaintiffs of the equal protection of the law guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

CLAIM 6: 5th Amendment Due Process - By mandating that all private citizens, including Plaintiffs, purchase health care coverage under penalty of law, the Health Care Reform Act violates the due process requirement of the Fifth Amendment.

As noted above, the Court flat out dismissed Claims 1 and 2 like a night club doorman dismissing a group of guys without any females.  The dismissal of these first two claims is significant because they actually challenged whether the Federal Government has the right to pass HCR in the first place; the rest of the Claims (except for #3) admit that the Feds have the right to pass HCR but merely challenge whether it bumps heads with another part of the Constitution.  (Claim 3 also challenges the right to pass HCR, but 10th Amendment arguments are generally known to be losing arguments).

So we did a pretty decent job at predicting the outcomes of Claims 1 and 2, but what about Claims 3 through 6?

Prediction for Claim 3 - Again, 10th Amendment claims have about as much kick as Jaden Smith in real life.  Even if you're not familiar with the Constitution at all, you've likely heard about the First Amendment.  And you've probably heard about the 2nd Amendment.  But there's a reason why you haven't really heard too much about the 10th Amendment.  Prediction: dismissed.

Prediction for Claims 4 & 5 - the abortion angle is an interesting one.  If you are anti-abortion that certainly is your right to hold that belief but it doesn't exactly make for a strong Constitutional argument seeing as how abortion isn't mentioned in the Constitution anywhere.  Sure, it is true that under the Hyde Amendment federal dollars can't be used for abortions but the HCR Act doesn't use federal dollars for abortions.  Now if private health insurance companies want to cover abortions then it wouldn't be very capitalist of the Feds to step in and tell them they can't now would it?  Moreover, the current rule on abortion is that it is legal in all 50 states so...don't really see these claims carrying the day here. Prediction: dismissed.

Prediction for Claim 6 - The 5th Amendment Due Process argument is the strongest argument they have of the 6 claims.  The Due Process Clause of the 5th Amendment basically says the Feds cannot deprive you of life, liberty or property without due process of law (the 14th Amendment Due Process Clause says the same thing about the States).  "Due Process" essentially means that you have to be given a fair hearing where you can present your side before the government can take your freedom or your stuff.  One could argue that forcing people to buy health care is robbing them of their liberty and property (money) without giving them a fair hearing to contest it.  Of course, the counterargument to that is that the HCR doesn't force anybody to necessarily buy anything - you can simply sit back, refuse any health care coverage, and pay the tax.  And before anybody tries to argue about whether the Feds can tax you - go back and read our post. Prediction: dismissed (b/c of Congress' power to tax).

Did the Federal Court in Michigan get it right?
What do you think about the Plaintiff's 6 Claims here?  Do they have a point?
Is the Abortion argument the best angle to attack the HCR Act?
Which argument do you feel is the strongest?
In the complaint, "Barack Hussein Obama" is the ONLY person out of the 8 people listed in the caption heading who is identified by his middle name - everybody else gets a middle initial or no mention of their middle name at all...what's up with that?
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