Three U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals are poised to render decisions on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the coming months. Despite hundreds of briefing pages and numerous oral arguments, government lawyers have yet to address the law's most basic constitutional infirmity. Only a "general police power"—the right to enact laws alleged to be in the public interest without regard to interstate commerce or some other federal legislative authority—can support the law's centerpiece, the "individual mandate" that all Americans purchase health insurance. The Constitution denies that power to the federal government, reserving it to the states alone.In enacting the individual mandate, Congress purported to rely on its power to regulate interstate commerce and, in the process, reach individuals who are already engaged in that commerce. But the individual mandate does not regulate commerce, interstate or otherwise. It simply decrees that all Americans, unless specially exempted, must have a congressionally prescribed level of health-insurance coverage regardless of any economic activity in which they may be engaged. Requiring individuals to act simply because they exist is the defining aspect of the general police power that Congress lacks.
There are so many reasons why it's a bad idea to vest a "general police power" with the Federal government. Healthcare is just one of them. Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not the courts will grant this power to DC.