Capitol Comment: Health Insurance Mandates Defy Constitutional Authority

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison Aug. 12, 2010, 9:57am

Late last year, when the Senate was debating the health care reform bill, my colleagues and I protested countless objectionable provisions that would undermine the quality and raise the costs of health care in America.

One of the most troubling provisions was the individual mandate which would require that all citizens purchase health insurance. The trouble with the individual mandate is that the federal government doesn't actually have the constitutional authority to force Americans to buy something that they may decide they don't want or need.

We fought hard against this mandate. Insurance regulations are the historic and constitutional prerogative of the states. During the debate, I called for a vote to raise this critical constitutional issue on the floor of the Senate. Unfortunately, my attempt was defeated on a party-line vote.

In some of the first good news since the White House forced the health care bill through Congress, a federal court has just given the Commonwealth of Virginia the green light to proceed with its constitutional challenge to the health care law.

Because Virginia has a law on the books that conflicts with the new federal health care law, Virginia has argued this is a violation of the tenth amendment and filed suit against the government. The federal court found that Virginia has a right to bring this case against the federal government's overreaching law.

But the health care law tramples the rights guaranteed under the Tenth Amendment for all states. The amendment reads, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people."

The language couldn't be more simple or clear. That is the beauty of the U.S. Constitution. It was written to be a limiting document. Our founding framers wisely limited the authority granted to the federal government because they knew that each state's government is closer to the people being governed.

This law creates a massive role for the federal government in health care and it goes against the state-based authority that has been in place for over 60 years. The Obama Administration argues that under the Supremacy Clause, the state must comply with federal law.

But that can only hold if the federal government is acting within its enumerated powers, specified in a list of items in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which defines the authoritative power of Congress. Forcing every American to buy a good or a service falls outside of Congress's power.

However, under the authority of the tenth amendment, many states have taken full responsibility for creating, maintaining, and overseeing the health insurance plans that meet the specific and varied needs of their residents.

In Texas, we have established a fully self-insured plan for state employees and teachers that keeps administration and oversight completely within the realm of our state's power. Under the new federal health care law, Texas, and all other states, will now have to justify any changes to the terms of their insurance plans with federal bureaucrats.

This flies in the face of the founding framers' intent that it is the prerogative of the states to make the laws that affect their citizens, particularly on issues as fundamental and personal as health care.

Last year, I asked the attorney general of Texas to use every resource at his disposal to preserve our state's rights, guaranteed under the constitution, so Texans may be protected from the heavy hand of the federal government.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has joined forces with attorneys general from twenty other states and filed a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the new health care law. This lawsuit is similar to the one that is being argued in federal court in Virginia.

The early victory in Virginia is encouraging. We can win back the states' rights, limit the role of the federal government, and repeal this costly and damaging health care law.

Americans deserve a medical system that keeps them � and not bureaucrats � in control of the decisions governing their own health.

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