“Congress has exceeded the bounds of its authority.” -- For some time now, that has been the opinion of the National Federation of Independent Business, millions of small-business owners, 26 state attorneys general, and as of this week, the wording of an important official ruling handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson. The federal judge on Monday concluded that Congress overstepped in passing President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act with its individual mandate to force Americans to purchase health insurance.
Vinson’s ruling adds crucial momentum to a legal challenge launched immediately upon the passage of the ill-designed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act last year. He wrote: “The health care market is more than one sixth of the national economy, and without doubt Congress has the power to reform and regulate this market. That has not been disputed in this case. The principal dispute has been about how Congress chose to exercise that power here.”
This momentum could propel this suit into consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court which we believe will agree with our claims that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause gives no authority to Congress to require every individual to purchase health coverage or be fined.
Small-business owners are not opposed to providing health insurance for their employees. To the contrary, for decades they have been pleading with Congress to create an atmosphere that would allow them to afford this important benefit.
But when a majority of Congress, feeling loosely bound by the Constitution’s protections, dictated what Americans must do to obtain health coverage, NFIB had no choice but to join this lawsuit to make known the vehement opposition of the small-business community.
Such interference in the marketplace is unthinkable to them. Why should citizens be forced into being insurance company customers? What right does Congress have to fine anyone for not doing something? It is clearly a reach far exceeding the grasp of Congress and the White House.
Not only does the public, upon learning more about this law, show its disfavor, but a recent Reuter’s poll found that nearly two-thirds of the doctors surveyed believe it will erode the nation’s health coverage over the next five years. Even Medicare’s chief actuary just days ago testified before Congress that the law is unlikely to reduce health care costs. And he admitted that the Obama administration’s assurance that people will be able to keep their current health insurance if they desire to is not necessarily true.
Small-business owners are already aware of this fact. Some NFIB members have learned from their insurance carriers that their current plans will soon vanish because the insurance company will no longer offer them.
Patient protection and affordable care? Hardly. This is the exact opposite of the reform that Main Street has been begging for.
Forcing all citizens to purchase government approved health insurance denies individuals the right to decide for themselves how they want to manage their healthcare. One size fits all insurance is not the right solution. And it’s not a solution that small business owners accept.
Today’s legal victory serves as a reminder that no individual or group, not even the federal government, is above the law of the land. Judge Vinson’s ruling holds the Constitution in true regard. This path should be followed when NFIB’s case on behalf of the nation’s small-business owners reaches the U.S. Supreme Court.
Karen Harned is the executive director of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center.
Karen R. Harned, esq. is executive director of the NFIB's Small Business Legal Center.