“Can Congress Tell Us to Join a Gym?”

(p. A31) HENRY E. HUDSON, the federal judge in Virginia who ruled this week that the individual mandate provision of the new health care law is unconstitutional, has become the object of widespread derision. Judge Hudson explained that whatever else Congress might be able to do, it cannot force people to engage in a commercial activity, in this case buying an insurance policy.

Critics contend that Judge Hudson has unduly restricted Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce, the principal basis on which the government defends the law. Some also claim that he ignored the “necessary and proper” clause of the Constitution, which allows Congress leeway to choose how to put in place national economic programs. Yet a closer reading shows that Judge Hudson’s analysis could prove irresistible to the Supreme Court and that there is a reasonable chance it will agree that the insurance mandate is invalid.
. . .
Indeed, the court has never confronted a federal statute that forces people to engage in some action like this. The conservative justices in particular will no doubt wonder what else Congress can make Americans do if it can make us buy health insurance. Can Congress tell us to join a gym because fit people have fewer chronic diseases? Can Congress direct us to purchase a new Chrysler to help Detroit get back on its feet?

For the full commentary, see:
JASON MAZZONE. “Can Congress Force You to Be Healthy?” The New York Times (Fri., December 17, 2010): A31.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated December 16, 2010.)

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