By Lenna Webb
NDG Special Contributor
Much of the debate swirling around the push for changes in the way insurance companies are regulated and potential mandates to require our citizens to have health care insurance focuses on claims by the Tea Party movement and in Texas, by Governor Perry, that the 10th Amendment of the Constitution forbids such action by Congress. THEY ARE FLAT WRONG!
The 10th Amendment basically says that if a “power” is not specifically given to Congress in the Constitution, then the power is reserved to the various States. They argue that since regulation or provision of health care is not contained within the Constitution, then the Federal Government cannot regulate it. If this were the only provision to be found in the Constitution, they might have a point. However, within the Article One, Section Eight, you will find the basis for Federal Regulation. This is where all the powers of Congress are listed. Clauses one and three are the key!
Clause 1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.
Here the key is “provide for …. general welfare”. Even the most conservative constructionist would find difficulty in denying that the health of the citizens of the United States is included under this clause.
Clause 3: To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.
It is fairly obvious how “general welfare” applies to health care for the citizens of the United States, but how does “commerce” between States come into it? Quite simply. Think of all the various aspects of health care and insurance companies and how they operate across State lines.
Probably all the equipment used by doctors and hospitals is purchased from out of state, if not out of the country itself. Something as simple as a syringe is governed by “commerce between States”. Very little is probably manufactured within the same State in which you receive care. Even when you mail your payment to your insurance company, you are using the US Mail, which is regulated under Commerce. I am sure you can come up with hundreds of specific examples where people and Health Care and Health Insurance undeniably can be regulated by the Federal Government.
So the next time you hear someone refer to the 10th Amendment in the debate over health care reform, answer back with ARTICLE ONE, SECTIONS ONE AND EIGHT and be able to confidently explain what they mean. Maybe the Tea Baggers will actually learn something about our Constitution they did not know before!
Lenna Webb is the past president of the North Dallas Texas Democratic Women from 2006-2009. For more info visit www.nddw.org.