State Capitol News
9:01 am
Tue March 23, 2010

Congress healthcare mandate leaves Arizona with questions

Phoenix, AZ – The way the measure is worded, people have to have coverage or,
beginning in 2014, pay a penalty. Attorney General Terry Goddard
said it might be beyond the power of the federal government to
actually force anyone to purchase health insurance.

(But I don't believe what this statute does is mandate that we
have a particular behavior. The taxing power says we have a
choice. We can either sign up for the insurance or we can pay a
higher tax. And I think they do have the power to do that.)

But Paul Bender who teaches constitutional law at Arizona State
University said that's overly simplistic.

(To call it a 'tax' seems to me an attempt to make it sound like
something it isn't. It's an obligation. And you get fined if you
don't do it.)

But Bender said there are precedents to federal mandates, like
Social Security. He said the question of whether the measure is
legal is likely to turn on whether the U.S. Supreme Court
concludes the right of Congress to regulate interstate commerce
also includes health insurance. Goddard and Bender do agree on
one point: If the federal law is valid, a measure on the November
ballot to let Arizonans opt out of federal health mandates is
legally meaningless. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard
Fischer.