An editorial in the Washington Post, no less, which supported the health care reform bill, admits that the lawsuits seeking to strike down the new law may have a case:
Just minutes after Tuesday’s signing ceremony, the constitutionality of the health insurance reform law came under fire. A coalition of attorneys general from 13 states filed suit in a northern Florida federal court; Virginia lodged a separate complaint, and other states may follow.
These challenges are not frivolous. The states argue that the individual mandate — forcing individuals to purchase health insurance — stretches and distorts Congress's constitutional power “to regulate Commerce . . . among the several states.” A person who declines to buy insurance is not engaged in interstate commerce and should therefore lie beyond the reach of Congress, they say.
This contrasts, in two ways, with a consumer who is forced to buy car insurance. First, states have power to regulate activities within their borders that the Constitution does not grant the federal government. Second, a consumer must choose to enter the car market; only then does a state place a condition on that choice by requiring insurance. If the courts acknowledge the legitimacy of the individual mandate, the states argue, the federal government’s power to order purchases of other products or services — or any number of other directives — would be unlimited.
To use an example I’ve heard, if the federal government can compel people to purchase health insurance, it should also be able to decide that it would be beneficial to the national economy to require everyone to buy a GM automobile.