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Health insurance mandate like broccoli? Judge wants to know

by Dara Kam | December 16th, 2010

A federal judge in Pensacola hearing oral arguments in a key lawsuit over the federal health care law this morning repeatedly questioned lawyers about whether the federal government was overreaching its authority by forcing individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson wanted to know if the health care law set a precedent allowing Congress to pass laws about anything that has an economic impact.

Congress could decide that “everybody needs to eat broccoli” because that would make them healthier and thereby reduce health care costs, Vinson proposed.

“If they decided that everybody needs to eat broccoli because broccoli is healthy they could mandate that everybody has to buy a certain amount of broccoli each week,” he asked David Rivkin, a lawyer for Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and the 19 other states suing the federal government over the law.

Rivkin said that allowing the law to stand would give Congress the power to pass “an infinite variety of mandates…because we’re spending zillions of dollars on health care.”

But U.S. Department of Justice lawyer Ian Gershengorn, defending the law, disagreed.

“It is not shoes. It is not cars. It is not broccoli. It is a means for paying for something,” Gershengorn said.

Lawyers for both sides argued two main issues for more than two hours today in Vinson’s Pensacola courtroom.

The first deals with whether the federal government exceeded its authority granted under the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause limiting powers to the federal government. Opponents of the measure, including McCollum and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, argue that the commerce clause does not give the federal government the authority to force individuals to purchase products.

The second issue is whether changes to the Medicaid program included in the law violate the 10th Amendment (the supremacy clause) establishing states’ rights and barring the federal government from coercing states into doing something.

Florida Assistant Attorney General Blaine Winship argued that the changes to Medicaid in the new law are so sweeping that Congress essentially created a new program. And he said that states can’t walk away from the program that provides health care for the poor, elderly and pregnant women.

“They knew that they had a stick in their hand” and created an act “that depended on states staying in. They knew the states were stuck,” Winship said.

But Vinson pointed out that several states, including Texas, are considering dropping out of the program.

And Gershengorn said that just because the costs of Medicaid will grow under the new law doesn’t mean the federal government has overreached its authority.

“It is not the case that when the grant gets big enough the federal government no longer gets to set the terms,” he argued.

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14 Responses to “Health insurance mandate like broccoli? Judge wants to know”

  1. Half Pint Says:

    Look- it is against the law to try and force anyone in this country to purchase anything or punish them for not purchasing something.

    One of the mian resons our healthcare has skyrocketed is because of the illegals and their illegal families going to the doctor/hospital and never paying the bill.

    Why don’t we enforce all current laws re: illegals before we start creating new ones that impinge on the american citizen’s rights?

  2. Dworkis Says:

    Illegals, tort reform, the ability to purchase insurance across state lines. Pick the cause and the solution. The Dems just want to continue with the manifestation of the Nanny State.

  3. what's the difference? Says:

    I guess that we all should be able to decide what we want to pay for and who we want to help. I don’t have any kids, so I choose not to pay for your childs education because that would be the nanny state.

  4. RDC Says:

    The same people complaining about being required to carry health insurance are the ones that gripe about people using the ER as a primary care physician…which do you want because you can’t have both. If people don’t have health insurance, they are going to continue to use the ER and not pay for it and it ends up being paid for by the rest of us.

  5. OBIWAN== Says:

    Insurance – Health, Life, Auto, Home, etc. has been regulated by “the states” since before we became a republic! Professionals have argued for the past five decades – since Medicare passed in 1964 – over what would be best.

    American Insurers have become world renown for handling risk…operating uniquely within state borders! For economic consistency they have adopted many multi-state compacts…Insurance Services Office promulgates standard forms…that are filed individually within each state…and various state specific amendments are added!

    The Nat’l Association of Ins. Commissioners create “models” – so states can adopt standard Guaranteed Issue, Non-Medical, “no preconditions” policies…IF they choose! (COBRA and HIPPA made this almost unnecessary?)

    There is NO Federal GOVT insurance anything! As an employer, the 700 employee Fed Benefits Division allows employees to purchase from any approved local offering…and pays 75% of the cost from lowest to highest!! EVEN our Federal GOVT does not self-insure and self-administer its millions of employees healthcare – they allow private choice!

    Medicare Advantage was reformed by MMA 2003…67% of Seniors chose private plans for all or their Plan D! Medicare is administered by 15 private Med. Admin. Contractors … also a MMA 2003 reform!! Medicare Advantage is allowed to operate “across state lines” to recognize Waskom, TX folks get medical in Shreveport, LA, South Georgia folks go to Jacksonville, FL, etc.

    International Risk Managers can attest their foreign nationals always take the private plan – as their local country nationized plan is always meager, slow or “not covered”!! Canada assumes premmies will be handled “stateside”…they don’t even have the equipment for survival!!

  6. RB Says:

    Buying accross state lines for health insurance is a myth, reguarding lower premiums. The rates are underwriten as to where you reside, the rates in lake county are less than Dade county for example. The rates in South Florida are similar to NYC, or Southern California, a lot higher than Montana, where you may have to drive a few hundred miles for a hospital rater than a few miles in south Florida

  7. hsr0601 Says:

    1. Auto insurance mandate !

    Under historical interpretations of the Constitution, Congress can dictate the economic activity of citizens so long as that activity will have profound, large-scale effects on the national economy.
    2. Health insurance protects you PLUS all !
    ** Inaction cost, $9trillion over the next decade, ((Some of CBO analysis : While the costs of the financial bailouts and economic stimulus bills are staggering, they are only a fraction of the coming costs from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that each year Medicaid will expand by 7 percent, Medicare by 6 percent, and Social Security by 5 percent. These programs face a 75-year shortfall of $43 trillion–60 times greater than the gross cost of the $700 billion TARP financial bailout)).

    Among the thirty-three industrialized countries in the world, only America has no universal health care. Why do all the leading countries require participation in a universal plan? Because every other country understands that health care is not only a basic right, it is also a necessity, a sane policy protecting the country from plagues and epidemics but also from bankruptcy by providing modern and uniform health care for its people.

  8. PMBB Says:

    All of This is my opinion: the american citizens is losing everything our fore fathers fought and died for.My family fought in wars dating back to the american revolution,The civil war,world war1, World war 2[one was a pow one was on the Tennessee bombed at Peral Harbor,and one was in the battle of Normandy.My husband was a gunners mate in the Korean conflict. His ship was sitting in the gulf of Tonkin in Korea.
    His ship carried the Admiral,and they had been put on aleart their ship would be heavy hit if North korea did not surrender because they carried the Admiral of the fleet.MY husband was at his gun ready to fire when North Korea surrendered.What is wrong with this picture?North Korea has broken the peace treaty.Have they even got a slap on the hand? My Brother-in-law was in Vietnam, shot down,wounded,and almost died. #1The Obama health care bill takes away our rights. When did Liberty ,and justice for all end.Our armed forces fought,and are still fighting and dying for all of us. ?This bill was strong armed and shoved down the american peoples throat.senior citizens like me, who has insurance will stil not be able to get the care we need.We are losing great doctors,or they are not taking anymore medicare patients.Its my opinion our rights was taken away. If our great fore fathers that built this great country could come back for one week,go to Washington,DC find out what is going on in our government.The majority of the politicians would be tared,feathered,and run out of DC on a rail. #2.America’s money problems started over 40 years when I believe It was Carter that signed the free trade bill.
    The bill was lobbed against,and it was made plain we the people of the united states of america did not want this to happen.The citizens was ignored.Today we have very little industry/ manufacturing like in the Good old days of the USA.when the farmers grew what we ate,and our plants made almost everything we used: food clothing,home fashions, automobiles.Its my opinon this is why we are broke today. The trillions of dollars we borrowed from china in my opinion is money that should be in our banks.Because they have made their money from sales of products that we should be making in the USA.We should have a high tax on imports entering the USA.The money goes into our economy,or in my opinion:repeal the bill,which never should have been passed.Start our plants up and running again.Our moto should be :If we don’t grow it we don’t eat it.If we don’t make it we don’t buy it.If we followed these rules we would be out of debt in less than a year.. #3.America was built on good, hard working ,law abiding immigrants. The illegals should all be deported,and if you have not paid into the social security ,and medicare fund the person applying does not get a dime.Ers should have a rule : no treatment for illegals.
    #4.We need to have strict laws and not recognize all the advocate’s that lobby for the criminal.If you have molested a child ,or committed a terrible crime beyond a shadow of a doubt. The day after you are sentenced you get your last meal.Three hours later you have your choice of how you want to die.
    Between getting rid of: illegals ,and criminal the government would save billions. #5.Some Immigrants entering the United States Gets Hundreds of thousands of dollars to start a business.This needs to be closed until,our crisis is over.No money for immigrants until our economy is stable.
    #6.We have more oil in the ground in the
    USA than Saudi Arabia has,and why did we not get a loan from Saudi Arabia instead of China.Any one have the answer.we need to be getting our oil out of the ground and building refineries .again this is another area where our so called
    politicians have sold us out.
    God Bless the America that I love.

  9. 1hannibal Says:

    It’s the Seventeenth Amendment all over again. Can you imagine a senator voting for this if he were elected by the state legislature. We replaced “the corrupt few by the incompetent many” when this amendment was enacted. The state legislatures lost their voices even more completely than any civil war.

  10. patewart Says:

    The first new rule says you HAVE to have insurance. Both my husband and I have pre-existing conditions, and although the new bill says we can’t be denied coverage because of it. So far, the cheapest health insurance we’ve been able to find is called “Wise Health Insurance” search for it online if you are pre-existing conditions.

  11. X Says:

    US is wealthy because US is generous. If we weren’t generous, we’d be politicians. Give what you can. They’ll take until it’s all gone and then ask for more. That’s all there is, there ain’t no more. Beg, borrow, steal or leak; it ain’t helping.

  12. KnightroFTW Says:

    Damn right it’s unconstitutional. and comparing obamacare to broccoli is insulting to broccoli. broccoli is delicious.

  13. KDBSL8Y Says:

    I think that it is utterly ridiculous that doctors and lawyers can charge the amount of money that they do and then the government wants to turn around and punish the poor ppl because we choose not to have insurance. Not to mention the fact that if I had to pay for health insurance, I would not have anything to live on for the rest of the month. I recently was told that I am no longer eligible for “extra help” with my medicare/medicaid because we make too much money. Both my husband and I are disabled and live from month to month hoping that nothing else is taken out of our meezly little SSD checks. I think we should go be able to force the doctors and the layers to help out the country by making them pay for 50% of their clients’ well being. Whether it be attorney help or doctor visits. For those that do not have insurance, they should be allowed to go anywhere in this country to recieve medical help at no charge if their life depended on it. I recently had an out patient procedure and recieved the bill this week to the tune of 11,500. The doctor was 3 hours late and the surgery lasted longer than it should have and then they want me to pay for the doctor’s overtime because he was late to surgery? I think not. Hospitals are also in ther same field as the physicians and attorneys….if they didn’t charge so much money for an exam we would all be healthy, happy, and without hefty medical insurance bills and deductibles.

  14. papabear Says:

    If it ain’t in the Constitution, it sure as hell better not go in our laws. That’s common sense enough for me.

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