In an op-ed in the Washington Post yesterday, U.S. attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. and secretary of health and human services Kathleen Sebelius make a compelling case for the Constitutionality of health insurance reform law.
Roughly 20 cases question the new law’s individual responsibility provision, which says that Americans who can afford to must maintain basic health coverage.
Federal courts in Michigan and Virginia have upheld the law as constitutional, but Monday, a federal court in Virginia reached the opposite result. These and other cases will continue through our courts as opponents try to block the law. But these attacks are wrong on the law, and if allowed to succeed, they would have devastating consequences for everyone with health insurance.
The majority of Americans who have health insurance pay a higher price because of our broken system. Every insured family pays an average of $1,000 more a year in premiums to cover the care of those who have no insurance.
Everyone wants health care to be affordable and available when they need it. But we have to stop imposing extra costs on people who carry insurance, and that means everyone who can afford coverage needs to carry minimum health coverage starting in 2014.
If we want to prevent insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions, it’s essential that everyone have coverage. Imagine what would happen if everyone waited to buy car insurance until after they got in an accident. Premiums would skyrocket, coverage would be unaffordable, and responsible drivers would be priced out of the market.
The same is true for health insurance. Without an individual responsibility provision, controlling costs and ending discrimination against people with preexisting conditions doesn’t work.
The legal arguments made against the law gloss over this problem even as opponents have sought to invent new constitutional theories and dig up old ones that were rejected 80 years ago.
Opponents claim the individual responsibility provision is unlawful because it “regulates inactivity.” But none of us is a bystander when it comes to health care. All of us need health care eventually. Do we pay in advance, by getting insurance, or do we try to pay later, when we need medical care?
The individual responsibility provision says that as participants in the health-care market, Americans should pay for insurance if they can afford it. That’s important because when people who don’t have insurance show up at emergency rooms, we don’t deny them care. The costs of this uncompensated care – $43 billion in 2008 – are then passed on to doctors, hospitals, small businesses and Americans who have insurance.
As two federal courts have already held, this unfair cost-shifting harms the marketplace. For decades, Supreme Court decisions have made clear that the Constitution allows Congress to adopt rules to deal with such harmful economic effects, which is what the law does – it regulates how we pay for health care by ensuring that those who have insurance don’t continue to pay for those who don’t. Because of the long-held legal precedent of upholding such provisions, even President Ronald Reagan’s solicitor general, Charles Fried, called legal objections to the law “far-fetched.”
Case after case challenging the Constitutionality of the new law has gone to the courts and been rejected until this Virginia judge bucked the trend. Why did he buck the trend?
Is it, perhaps, because Judge Henry E. Hudson had a conflict of interest?
Henry E. Hudson, the federal judge in Virginia who just ruled health care reform unconstitutional, owns between $15,000 and $50,000 in a GOP political consulting firm that worked against health care reform…
Hudson’s annual financial disclosures show that he owns a sizable chunk of Campaign Solutions, Inc., a Republican consulting firm that worked this election cycle for John Boehner, Michele Bachmann, John McCain, and a whole host of other GOP candidates who’ve placed the purported unconstitutionality of health care reform at the center of their political platforms. Since 2003, according to the disclosures, Hudson has earned between $32,000 and $108,000 in dividends from his shares in the firm (federal rules only require judges to report ranges of income).
Hmmmmm…naw. Couldn’t be.
It’s pretty clear that the opponents of this signature piece of legislation will not rest until the Supreme Court weighs in on it. I suspect it will survive just fine. And even if it doesn’t, Dr. Howard Dean made a pretty compelling argument of his own a couple of nights ago on Countdown with Keith Olbermann saying that the new law can survive just fine without it.
I’m just sayin’…
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