U.S. courts have been in limbo for months debating the legality of federal health care reforms. But last week, some of the legal squabbling that still surrounds the reforms was hushed. A U.S. District Court judge in Detroit released a decision supporting the federal government’s right to implement the health care reforms signed into law in March. This is written consent that validates the reforms. Though the law is still controversial, it’s a valuable effort to make health care available to people who desperately need it. The recent district court decision addresses legal qualms and should be considered as a precedent for future lawsuits.
On Thursday, the Detroit Free Press reported that U.S. District Court Judge George Steeh issued a decision that refused to stop the implementation of the federal health care reforms, which are scheduled to go into effect in 2014. Steeh is the first judge to make a ruling on one of several cases nationwide that claim Congress exceeded its legal rights when it passed the law requiring Americans to obtain health insurance. Steeh’s decision argued that purchasing healthcare was a matter of interstate trade and is therefore within federal jurisdiction.
Though the health care law may be contentious nationally — some consider it too extreme, while others think it lacks essential components — it is based in a dire need to make health care more accessible. According to an Oct. 8 Detroit Free Press article, there are nearly 1.3 million Michigan residents lacking health care coverage. The federal health care law that was signed into law in March will allow these residents easy access to an affordable health care system. Citizens have a duty to promote and support policies — like the health care reforms — that are socially responsible and better the welfare of others.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox and 19 other attorneys general from across the nation have also filed lawsuits against the federal mandate of health care. The lawsuits argue that the federal government cannot force people to buy a good solely because they are citizens. Many legal experts contend that the central legal question surrounding the law is whether the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which states that Congress can regulate trade and business between states, allows the federal legislature to mandate that citizens purchase health insurance.
Steeh’s decision has set a promising precedent, arguing that the health care laws are a matter of interstate trade and therefore protected under the clause. His refusal to halt implementation of the reforms reinforces the constitutional legality of the health care laws that are so necessary for Americans who struggle to afford pricey health care plans. Other judges must consider Steeh’s decision when determining an outcome.
The lawsuits currently being fought across the nation are bound to have as profound of an impact as Steeh’s. This precedent shouldn’t be overlooked as the other lawsuits are considered. Others should consider Judge Steeh’s opinion as a precedent for federal health care reform lawsuits.