A federal judge on Thursday upheld the authority of the federal government to require everyone to have health insurance, dealing a setback to groups seeking to block the new national health care plan.
The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in Michigan by a Christian legal group and four people who claimed lawmakers exceeded their power under the Constitution's commerce clause, which authorizes Congress to regulate trade.
But Judge George Caram Steeh in Detroit said the mandate to get insurance by 2014 and the financial penalty for skipping coverage are legal. He said Congress was trying to lower the overall cost of insurance by requiring participation.
"Without the minimum coverage provision, there would be an incentive for some individuals to wait to purchase health insurance until they needed care, knowing that insurance would be available at all times," the judge said.
"As a result, the most costly individuals would be in the insurance system and the least costly would be outside it," Steeh said. "In turn, this would aggravate current problems with cost-shifting and lead to even higher premiums."
There's no doubt that this will eventually end up before the Supreme Court. By then it may be 2014. Of course, all bets are off if the Republicans get control of Congress and simply refuse to budget any money for the programs, and even now they can muster 41 votes in the Senate to shut down the Government if they so choose.
War's far from over, but the first battle has been won.