Congress, Courts, and Commerce: Upholding the Individual Mandate to Protect the Public's Health

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 39 (3):394-400 (2011)

Abstract

Despite historic efforts to enact the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010, national health reform is threatened by multiple legal challenges grounded in constitutional law. Premier among these claims is the premise that PPACA’s “individual mandate” is constitutionally infirm. Attorneys General in Virginia and Florida allege that Congress’ interstate commerce powers do not authorize federal imposition of the individual mandate because Congress lacks the power to regulate commercial “inactivity.” Stated simply, Congress cannot regulate individuals who choose not to obtain health insurance because they are not engaged in a commercial venture. Several courts initially considering this argument have rejected it, but two federal district courts in Virginia and Florida have concurred, leading to numerous appeals and the near promise of United States Supreme Court review.

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