Detroit Federal District Judge George Caram Steeh ruled Oct. 7 that Congress has the authority under its Commerce Clause power to enact the individual mandate provision of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, which requires individuals to purchase healthcare insurance under penalty of federal law, in the case brought by Thomas More Law Center and its four Michigan plaintiffs.
However, the judge also ruled that the plaintiffs have standing to bring their constitutional challenge to the individual mandate provision of healthcare reform legislation.
Regarding the injunction, Steeh said that the defendants "have advanced no authority for applying the Anti-Injunction Act to bar lawsuits when no attempt to collect, or otherwise act affirmatively, has been taken by the Internal Revenue Service" because the agency has not, as yet, taken steps to "collect or assess a tax."
In his ruling, Steeh noted that the minimum coverage provision does not become effective until 2014. He added that the “act does not make insurance more costly, in fact the contrary is expected; rather the act requires plaintiffs to purchase insurance when they otherwise would not have done so.”
None of the four plaintiffs that Thomas More is representing have private healthcare insurance, and they “object to being compelled by the federal government to purchase healthcare coverage," the judge wrote. "They contend that if they do not purchase health insurance and are forced to pay a tax, such tax money would go into the general fund and could go to fund abortions. Each of the individual plaintiffs objects to being forced by the federal government to contribute in any way to the funding of abortions."
According to Thomas More, the court took the “extraordinary step” of concluding that Congress’ Commerce Clause power does not end at regulating economic activity.
“While plaintiffs describe the Commerce Clause power as reaching economic activity, the government’s characterization of the Commerce Clause reaching economic decisions is more accurate,” the judge wrote in his ruling.
Rob Muise, Thomas More's senior trial counsel who handled the case commented, “This decision is ripe for appeal, which we intend to do expeditiously.”