It boiled down to a debate over broccoli. And bread. And burial plots. If government can tell people to buy health insurance, Supreme Court justices wanted to know, what else could it make them buy?
Throughout Tuesday’s hearing on the health care law, the justices and lawyers argued about the perfect product to illustrate the limits of the federal government’s power over interstate markets.
“Everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli,” offered Justice Antonin Scalia, obviously resistant to expanding government’s reach.
“That’s quite different,” responded Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, arguing for the health insurance mandate. Unlike grocery shopping, medical care is a market “in which your participation is often unpredictable and often involuntary.” And the care of patients who don’t pay gets passed on to everyone else as higher taxes and insurance premiums.