Appeals Court Holds Part of Health Care Reform Law Unconstitutional

August 17, 2011 - by: Jessica Webb-Ayer 2 COMMENTS

On Friday, August 12, the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta held 2-1 that the individual health insurance mandate provision found in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the comprehensive health care reform legislation that President Barack Obama signed into law in March 2010, is unconstitutional. More specifically, the court found that the individual mandate, which would require most individuals to obtain health insurance or pay a fine, exceeded the power of the U.S. Congress under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

According to the majority opinion, “this economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives.”

Although there have been a number of legal challenges to the PPACA, this one was particularly interesting to a lot of people because it was filed by governors and attorneys general of 26 states that oppose the health care reform law. The district court that initially heard the case determined that since the individual mandate couldn’t be severed from the PPACA as a whole, “the entire Act must be declared void.” The Eleventh Circuit, however, took a different stance and held that the entire law didn’t need to be struck down, only the individual mandate provision.

The Eleventh Circuit is the first appellate court to rule that any part of the PPACA is unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati recently upheld the law, and a federal appeals court in Richmond that is also set to hear a challenge to the PPACA hasn’t ruled on the issue yet.

Since the legal challenges to the health care reform law began, many analysts have speculated that the U.S. Supreme Court may eventually have to decide the issue. This appears to be an even more likely scenario now that the circuits are split on the issue.

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About Jessica Webb-Ayer:
Jessica Webb-Ayer is an attorney editor for BLR’s human resources and employment law publications. She has written and edited countless publications on labor and employment law and is the editor of the Benefits Compliance Advisor online newsletter and the benefits manual, Benefits Compliance: Strategies for Plans, Programs & Policies. Ms. Webb-Ayer has also worked on various Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and workers’ compensation/safety products. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Psychology from Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated cum laude with a law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville, Tennessee. Ms. Webb-Ayer is licensed to practice law in Tennessee.
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1 Frances
11:39:01, 19/08/11

We can’t get rid of this horrific excuse for legislation fast enough as far as I’m concerned. It undermines individual rights and for that reason alone should be repealed in its entirety.

2 karen
12:02:45, 19/08/11

There is a great deal more to this than a simple “you have to buy expensive insurance.” In Massachusetts we have a universal plan and the State has negotiated with private insurers and resultant numerous offerings for insurance are very reasonable; you can get expensive coverage through the insurers as well.
I think it works in Mass. where I live. As an HR Manager who has to buy insurance for a large employer, fully unionized, I believe the government must find a way to eleviate the skyrocketing cost of medical care. The private insurers make no effort to limit costs, they gain by charging more to administer. They seldom report finding fraud or excessive use, it is the governments Medicare & Medicaid systems that have charged medical providers with vast frauds. The government employee is not looking to improve some stockholders bottom line!

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