Is the Health Care Law Unconstitutional?

Can the new health care law withstand court challenges?

Adam Freedman
4-minute read

Today’s topic: Is the health care reform law constitutional?

At the risk of stirring up controversy, I can’t resist dipping a toe into the current debate over the new health care bill.  One of my readers-Mary-writes in to ask whether the government can legally require citizens to purchase health insurance. Also, according to a highly-unscientific survey I’ve been running on my Facebook page, at least a few of you are curious about whether the health care law is unconstitutional. 

Is the Health Care Bill Unconstitutional?

The short answer is: we don’t know yet--because courts have never had to consider anything exactly like the federal health care mandate, and the court challenges are just getting underway. In this article, I’ll review some of the major arguments pro and con. 

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act--otherwise known as “health care reform” or the “health care law” or sometimes even as “ObamaCare.” Before the ink was even dry, a variety of politicians and advocacy groups started filing lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the law.

Will the Supreme Court Uphold the Health Care Law?

It appears inevitable that at least one of these challenges will reach the Supreme Court sooner or later. If you’re trying to handicap the likelihood of the Court overturning the law, it has to be noted that, historically, the Court defers to Congress unless it finds a law to be clearly unconstitutional. That said, the Court has overturned quite a few laws over the years, and there are serious arguments being made on both sides of the health care issue.


About the Author

Adam Freedman

Adam Freedman is a lawyer and a regular contributor to Point of Law and Ricochet. Freedman’s legal commentary has been featured in The New York Times, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and on Public Radio. He holds degrees from Yale, Oxford, and the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Naked Constitution (2012).