Constitution Day discussion focuses on health care reform
Health care reform and the Constitution collided in the Supreme Court this year and President Barack Obama’s premier domestic initiative emerged largely intact. But could it be that the decision was merely a stopgap, as the conservative chief justice who sided with the court liberals to uphold the law merely bides his time until provisions of the law have taken effect?
On the occasion of Constitution Day Sept. 17, this question was debated at UF Law. On one side was UF Law Professor Steven Willis, who briefed the Supreme Court and lower courts, advising them on the unconstitutionality of the The Affordable Health Care Act. On the other was Andrei Boyarshinov (JD 07), a UF Law adjunct professor and associate general counsel for Shands HealthCare.
Students, faculty and staff gathered in the Martin H. Levin Advocacy Center Courtroom for “The Affordable Care Act: The U.S. Constitution Meets Health Care Reform.”
Boyarshinov is senior attorney for managed care and network development, commercial transactions, and risk management for UF and Shands.
Willis has been a member of the UF Law faculty for 31 years and specializes in tax law. He wrote an amicus brief for the U.S. Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act and published three related law review articles.
Dean Robert Jerry acted as moderator, and began the discussion by summarizing the history of the Constitution and the health care debate.
“(Health care) was a topic that was discussed as early as the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt,” Jerry said.
The question posed to the speakers was whether the government could use its powers to require individuals to buy health care.
Boyarshinov presented an overview of the act, highlighting the problems with today’s health care system and how the act seeks to fix those problems.
“The U.S. spends more on health care than it does on its defense,” he said. According to Boyarshinov, the act seeks to decrease the cost of health care and simultaneously broaden health care availability through delivery system and insurance reform.
However, to effectuate the changes, individuals are required to either have insurance or pay a tax penalty.
“The glue through (the Affordable Health Act) is the individual mandate,” he said.
The act met with opposition by 26 states, but was recently declared constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. Although the case was a challenge of Congress’s commerce power, the Court upheld the act under taxing power.
Meanwhile, Willis’s recalled that his initial response to the ruling was dismay.
“And when that decision came down, and I read it… needless to say, I was disappointed,” Willis said.
However, upon reflection, Willis realized, “we have a truly brilliant chief justice of the Supreme Court.”
Willis used Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion to argue that the act will be challenged in 2014 on tax grounds and ultimately found unconstitutional. Willis said Roberts’ opinions lays out a “roadmap” for that result.
–Felicia Holloman (3L)
Law student writer