Michigan Judge Rejects Challenge to Health Care Law Mandate

Oct 7, 2010 5:27pm

ABC News' Ariane de Vogue and Pierre Thomas report:  In a victory for the Obama administration, a federal judge on Thursday dismissed a constitutional challenge to the individual mandate portion of the recently passed health care legislation.

This marks the first time a federal judge has ruled on the issue which is at the heart of most of the challenges to the Health Care Reform Act: whether Congress, under the Commerce Clause, has the authority to require uninsured individuals to buy health insurance.

"Congress intended to increase the number of insureds and decrease the cost of health insurance by requiring individuals to maintain minimum essential coverage or face a penalty for failing to do so. Because the “penalty” is incidental to these purposes, plaintiffs’ challenge to the constitutionality of the penalty as an improperly apportioned direct tax is without merit," Judge George Steeh, a Clinton appointee, wrote in a 20-page order.

"The minimum coverage provision, which addresses economic decisions regarding health care services that everyone eventually, and inevitably, will need, is a reasonable means of effectuating Congress’s goal," he said.

The case was filed electronically moments after President Obama signed the legislation and was brought by four Michigan residents opposing the mandate.

Their lawyer, Robert Muise of the Thomas More Law Center, said that he will appeal the decision to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"If Congress has authority to force people to engage in economic activity, that they wouldn't otherwise engage in there is no limit to congress' authority under the Commerce clause," Muise said.

Other challenges to the legislation are working their way through lower courts across the country.

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