Justice Dept. Defends Health Law Implementation From Court Injunction
Reuters: The Justice Department released a statement yesterday defending the federal health overhaul law from legal critics. "A conservative public interest group, the Thomas More Law Center, had filed a lawsuit in Michigan on March 23, the day Obama signed the law, and asked the court for an injunction to block it from taking effect. The group said a provision requiring most Americans to buy health insurance under threat of financial penalty was beyond the scope of Congress' power and was an unconstitutional tax. The group also said it violated their constitutional rights because federal tax dollars would be used to fund abortions" (Pelofski, 5/12).
The Associated Press: The Justice Department's response suggests the courts' overturning the legislation "would amount to unwarranted interference with the policymaking authority of Congress." But critics continue to say the individual mandate included in the law is unconstitutional. "Critics contend that Congress cannot require average citizens to purchase a particular good or service. 'Under the government's theory, they could force anyone to purchase vitamins, join a health club, or buy a General Motors vehicle, for that matter,' said Robert Muise, a lead attorney for the Thomas More Law Center."
The Obama administration, though, says that is not what the law amounts to. "People who remain uninsured by choice 'have not opted out of health care; they are not passive bystanders divorced from the health care market,' the government continued. 'They have made a choice regarding the method of payment for the services they expect to receive, no less 'active' than a decision to pay by credit card rather than by check'" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 5/12).
Politico: The response from the Obama administration Tuesday defended each of the problems with which the law center took issue. "With few surprises and succinct language, Tuesday's response defended the mandated purchase of health insurance as well within the bounds of both the Commerce Clause and Congress's power to raise taxes. The administration argues that consumer decisions to forgo health insurance do 'substantially affect interstate commerce by shifting costs to health care providers and the public,' thus giving the government power to regulate via the Commerce Clause." The Justice Dept. response also defends "Congress's power to levy taxes." The law center will file a response by June 1, then a court will make the decision. "Even if the injunction isn't granted, the center says the suit could still benefit the states' lawsuits" (Kliff, 5/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.