In an Apr. 3 op-ed in The Boston Globe, Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe ’66 discusses the debate on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act—specifically the individual mandate, which requires those otherwise uninsured (by an employer or by a federal program such as Medicaid) to purchase health insurance.

According to Tribe: “Nobody could plausibly question such a law’s validity, whether as a direct exercise of Congress’s power to ‘regulate Commerce . . . among the several States,’ or as a measure ‘necessary and proper for carrying [that power] into Execution,’ or as an exercise of the ‘Power to lay and collect Taxes . . . for the . . . general Welfare of the United States.’”

At a Mar. 24 event at HLS co-sponsored by the HLS Federalist Society and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, Tribe debated the issue alongside HLS Professor Charles Fried (both of whom argued for the Act’s constitutionality) and Randy Barnett ’77, professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and head of the legal challenge to the ACA.

An expert on Constitutional Law, Tribe was appointed Carl M. Loeb University Professor in 2004. His most recent book is The Invisible Constitution (Oxford University Press 2008).

Congress can compel action due to public necessity

by Laurence Tribe

There’s plenty to be said as a policy matter both for and against the Affordable Care Act, but it’s beyond reasonable debate that it complies fully with the Constitution. Few doubt that most of its provisions, including those requiring health insurers to cover people regardless of preexisting conditions or current illness, fall squarely within Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause. The one provision whose constitutionality is questioned is the individual mandate, the requirement that everyone who can afford to do so buy health insurance unless otherwise covered by an employer or by another federal program like Medicare. That mandate, too, is constitutional. … Read the full op-ed on »