Law professors to defend individual mandate

With a federal district judge in Florida expected to rule this month on a challenge to a key provision in the healthcare reform law, more than 100 legal scholars are defending its constitutionality.

The legal scholars are joining with the left-leaning Center for American Progress and American Constitution Society on Tuesday to voice their belief that the reform law's requirement for individuals to purchase health insurance is constitutional.

Opponents of the reform law argue that Congress does not have the power under the Commerce clause to regulate an individual’s decision not to purchase insurance. But supporters of the reform law say the decision can be regulated because everyone requires health services at some point, and the costs of caring for the uninsured are passed on to people with insurance.

Two federal judges — both appointees of President Clinton – have already upheld the individual mandate, but a Virginia federal judge who was appointed by former President George W. Bush ruled against the provision last month. 

UCLA School of Law professor Adam Winkler said Congress has the power under the “necessary and proper” clause to regulate the uninsured because they are part of the healthcare market. Winkler said the Virginia decision inspired the legal scholars to voice their support of the reform law.

"We need to show our strong support for 200 years of precedent that gives Congress the power to act," Winkler said. 

Meanwhile, a federal district judge is expected to rule as early as this week on a 20-state lawsuit that also challenges the individual mandate. A Reagan appointee will rule on the high-profile lawsuit, which has drawn attention from leading congressional Republicans and possible presidential candidates.