PLF and Iowa citizen (former combat medic) challenge federal health care mandate
WASHINGTON, DC; July 26, 2010: The new federal health care law violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause by ordering individual citizens to buy a good or service (health insurance) on pain of financial punishment.
So argues a lawsuit, just filed in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., by attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation. PLF is the leading legal watchdog for limited government and property rights, and one of the nation’s premier litigators for Commerce Clause limits on federal power. The case is titled, Sissel v. United States Department of Health & Human Services. The complaint may be found at PLF’s Website.
“Never before has the federal government ordered citizens to buy a good or service, or be hit with a fine or other punishment,” said PLF attorney Luke Wake. “The Constitution, properly interpreted, simply doesn’t permit this kind of federal command and control of people’s lives.”
PLF attorneys represent Matt Sissel, an artist (and former Iraq War combat medic) from Iowa City, who chooses to pay for medical expenses on his own, rather than buy health insurance. He objects on financial, philosophical, and constitutional grounds to being ordered by the federal government to purchase a health care plan he does not need or want. In this suit he challenges this federally imposed financial burden.
The mandate to buy health insurance violates the Commerce Clause, which bars unjustified federal meddling in individuals’ lives
The Commerce Clause – Article I, section 8 of the Constitution – empowers Congress to “regulate commerce...among the several states.” “The Commerce Clause authorizes the government to regulate the commerce that people freely engage in,” said PLF Principal Attorney Paul Beard. “It is not a license for the federal government to order us to buy particular goods or services – or else.
“The new health care law reflects a dangerous misconception about the relationship between citizens and the federal government,” Beard continued. “It promotes the astounding idea that members of Congress and federal regulators should have the power to micromanage our lives, and that they can be trusted to make our most private, personal decisions for us.”
“In fact, the Constitution places clear, firm limits on what the federal government can do – and the feds have arrogantly transgressed those boundaries by trying to tell Americans that we must buy health insurance whether we like it or not,” Beard continued.
PLF’s client in challenging the federal mandate to buy health insurance
Matt Sissel with a drawing he executed of Nobel economist
Matt Sissel of Iowa City, IA. Matt Sissel is a 29 year old artist who will be returning with his wife to his home town of Iowa City in August, after a period during which he was studying at the Academy of Realist Art in Toronto, Canada. He was formerly a soldier with the Iowa Army National Guard from 2000 to 2008. He spent two years in Iraq as a combat medic, the second of which he volunteered for, providing medical care to the sick and wounded. On top of those duties his second year was spent training and advising the Iraqi military. During his second tour he received the Bronze Star for his service.
After leaving Iraq, Matt took time off to clear his mind and hiked the 2,175 mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine with his wife. Shortly after completing the hike he moved to Toronto to achieve his dream of becoming an artist. He began studying traditional drawing and painting in 2008 at the Academy, one of the best schools in the world for this program.
In light of the health care reform of 2010, Matt hoped to get a jump on his career before having to worry about being fined by the government for choosing not to purchase health insurance. Unable to work in Canada due to visa restrictions, Matt decided to leave his school in 2010 before completing his program so that he could begin his career as an artist. He believes that spending his money on painting supplies and marketing tools would be a better way to spend his finances than insuring his already excellent health at such a pivotal time in his career.
Concerning the health care litigation, Matt issued this statement: “The Founding Fathers risked their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to achieve independence from tyranny for the simple dream that a citizen’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness would be protected by a just government. The pursuit of my happiness requires me to take the risk of pursuing my career while forgoing health insurance. If we Americans aren’t free to choose how to use our income and resources in the service of attaining our goals – if we’re told what we must buy with the money we earned ourselves – one may question whether we’re free at all. As has been said, ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,’ and never has this been more true than now.”
The mandate to buy health insurance: details
The new federal health care law – known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 – includes a mandate that American citizens living in the country, with a few specified exceptions, must buy health insurance if they are not otherwise covered by a federally approved insurance plan (through work, for instance), on pain of financial penalties if they elect not to do so. The penalties for failure to purchase approved health insurance are the greater of: 2.5 percent of the taxpayer’s annual income, or $695 for each uninsured family member per year up to a maximum of $2,085 per family per year, after a phase-in period starting in 2014.
PLF’s expertise in Commerce Clause issues
Founded in 1973, PLF is the oldest and most successful public interest legal organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, free enterprise, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations. For many years, one of PLF’s special areas of focus has been litigation to enforce the restraints on federal power that are established by the Commerce Clause.
In a Commerce Clause case now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, PLF is challenging federal regulations that have led to drastic water cutbacks for farms and communities in Central and Southern California in order to help a fish on the federal Endangered Species Act list – even though the fish does not figure in interstate commerce.
“Given PLF’s powerful track record in litigating Commerce Clause issues, it is particularly appropriate for PLF to become involved in the challenge to the new health care bill’s individual mandate,” said Luke Wake. “Nobody is a stronger, or more successful defender of our constitutional principles of limited government. We are drawing a line in the sand, and are now fighting to ensure that there are still limits on the federal government’s power and control over our lives.”
SUMMARY: PLF and Iowa citizen challenge federal health care law in court. The case is titled, Sissel v. United States Department of Health & Human Services. The complaint may be found at PLF’s Website.
About Pacific Legal Foundation
PLF is the nation’s leading litigator for limited government, property rights, free enterprise, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations. A brief video about PLF’s history and mission, including comments by former United States Attorney General Edwin J. Meese III.