Justice Department defends insurance mandate in brief
With oral arguments approaching March 26, the U.S. Justice Department gave the U.S. Supreme Court a formal defense of the healthcare reform law’s requirement that Americans purchase insurance or face a tax penalty. The Obama administration argues in the 130-page brief that the mandate was a proper attempt by Congress to regulate interstate commerce because the overall healthcare market is affected when uninsured Americans shift billions in uncompensated care costs to the insured population. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority, with the majority writing that there was no apparent way to “uphold the mandate without obliterating the boundaries inherent in the system of enumerated congressional powers.” The administration’s brief filed last week is one of four filings it will make in response to separate questions before the court, senior Obama administration officials said in a call with reporters. Also last week, the National Federation of Independent Business, three citizens and 26 states filed briefs arguing that the entire reform law should be struck down if the insurance mandate is found unconstitutional. Another brief filed by 36 Republican senators urged the court to strike down the entire law. America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, meanwhile, filed one arguing that without the mandate, insurance companies could not reasonably comply with the reform law’s requirement that insurers offer coverage to virtually anyone.