The Unconstitutionality of Obamacare

Just a month before he was elected president, Barack Obama gave his first speech focusing on what is now best known as Obamacare. “The question isn't how we can afford to focus on healthcare. The question is how we can afford not to,” Obama said. This still holds true for the Obama administration, but with a twist.

The 906-page health care act has been riddled with controversy, but now its constitutionality is being challenged under the Commerce Clause. With the law now being challenged in a conservative-leaning Supreme Court, Obamacare does not stand a chance.

Let’s get back to basics. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution is the Commerce Clause. The clause states that the United States Congress has the power “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the … states.” The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) contains an Individual Responsibility clause, which is commonly known as an “Individual Mandate.” This requires each citizen to have health care. Those who do not have it now will be forced to get it.  

One goal of this mandate is to limit the number of people who receive free care. It is free because no hospital can turn down a patient who is in an emergency, regardless of payment.

The number of people who receive a “free ride” is minimal. This will not save the government money. It will pull it from citizen’s pockets without them having any control over it. Additionally, the program's costs would be much more than all the “free rides” combined, adding to our country's growing debt.

My government cannot force me to buy something.

That’s what 26 states and the 11th Circuit of the Court of Appeals believe. Twenty-six states have sued over Obamacare, and this past summer this Court of Appeals deemed the mandate unconstitutional. On Monday, the Supreme Court decided to hear the challenges to the act. The court has planned for five and a half hours of oral argument (four and a half more than usual) in March, and a decision by June — right in the prime of Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

“[The mandate] exceeds Congress’s enumerated commerce power,” ruled Circuit Judges Frank Hull and Joel Dubina in August. Forcing a citizen to buy health care from a private company for their entire life is not included in the definition of “regulating commerce.”

With a liberal president backing the bill, I believe the conservative-leaning Supreme Court may be inclined to rule the mandate unconstitutional. If they do so, they also may rule the entire 906-page act unconstitutional.

How do you think the judicial ruling will play out? 

Photo Credit: Wikimeda Commons

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Alexander M. Spring

Alexander Spring is from New York City. He is currently a sophomore at Tufts University in Medford, MA. Alex is a Cognitive and Brain Sciences major, Economics minor and is pre-med. Additionally, Alex writes for the Huffington Post as well as The Tufts Daily.

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