Critical Condition

Federal Court Declares Obamacare’s Individual Mandate Unconstitutional

. . . but it shouldn’t have stopped there.

Obamacare has always hung by an absurdity. Its supporters claim that with the words “Congress shall have the Power … To regulate Commerce … among the several States,” the Constitution somehow give Congress the power to compel Americans to engage in commerce. This ruling exposes that absurdity, and exposes as desperate political spin the Obama administration’s claims that these lawsuits are frivolous.

This ruling’s shortcoming is that it did not overturn the entire law. Anyone familiar with Obamacare knows that Congress would not have approved any of its major provisions absent the individual mandate. The compulsion contained in the individual mandate was the main reason that most Democrats voted in favor of the law. Yet the law still only passed by the narrowest of all margins — by one votein the dead of night, on Christmas Eve — and required Herculean legislative maneuvering to overcome nine months of solid public opposition. The fact that Congress did not provide for a “severability clause” indicates that lawmakers viewed the law as one measure.

Despite that shortcoming, this ruling threatens the entire edifice of Obamacare, not just the individual mandate. The centerpiece of Obamacare is a three-legged stool: the individual mandate, the government price controls that compress health-insurance premiums, and the massive new subsidies to help Americans comply with the mandate. Knock out any of those three legs, and whole endeavor falls.

Moreover, the individual mandate is not the law’s only unconstitutional provision.

These lawsuits and the continuing legislative debate over Obamacare are about more than health care. They are about whether the United States has a government of specifically enumerated powers, or whether the Constitution grants the federal government the power to do whatever politicians please, subject only to a few specifically enumerated restraints. This ruling has pulled America back from a precipice.

Michael F. Cannon — Michael F. Cannon is the Cato Institute’s director of health policy studies. Cannon has been described as “an influential health-care wonk” (Washington Post), “ObamaCare’s single most relentless antagonist” (The New ...

Most Popular


Why Is Lin-Manuel Miranda Throwing Away His Shot?

Everybody needs a vacation, and after Hamilton maybe Lin-Manuel Miranda needed one more than most. At some point, though, relaxing becomes loafing. Miranda has a wonderful gift, but what he’s done with it lately is unconscionable. This week marks four years since Miranda’s musical masterpiece Hamilton ... Read More