Latest Health Law Decision Pushes Challenges Toward Supreme Court

Latest Health Law Decision Pushes Challenges Toward Supreme Court
The Kaiser Family Foundation
August 16, 2011
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As court action continues, some policy experts expect this development to intensify efforts to find an alternative to the individual mandate.

National Journal: Health Care Split Decisions Push Fight To The Supreme Court
In one of the main legal challenges against the health care reform passed last year, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta declared the law's "individual mandate" unconstitutional, calling it an "unprecedented exercise of congressional power." The 2-1 ruling constitutes the first time a Democrat-appointed judge has struck down the mandate. Federal judges have been weighing in on the bill's constitutionality for a while now and health care reporters and pundits are weighing in on where the ruling leaves the legislation (Hudson, 8/15).

Politico Pro: Lawsuits Hit Faster Track To Supreme Court
Friday's federal court ruling against a key provision of the health care reform law makes it almost certain the Supreme Court will decide the law's constitutionality in the 2012 term. The court has two very strong reasons to take the case now. First, there are two circuit courts that have ruled in opposite directions on the constitutionality of the law's individual mandate. And second, because the Obama administration lost in the latest ruling, it is going to be the one filing the appeal. The Supreme Court rarely turns down such requests from the federal government, especially on an issue with the scope of the health reform law (Haberkorn, 8/15).

The Wall Street Journal: Health Overhaul Is Dealt Setback
A U.S. appeals court in Atlanta handed the Obama administration its biggest defeat to date in the battle over the health care overhaul passed last year, ruling the law's mandate on Americans to carry health insurance was unconstitutional. Friday's 207-page opinion and 84-page dissent made clear that views of the Obama administration's signature law have increasingly hardened in place as voices from each side roll out familiar arguments and precedents to buttress their opposite conclusions (Kendall, 8/13).

Politico: 11th Circuit Says Mandate Unconstitutional
The panel partially upheld a ruling issued in January by Judge Roger Vinson, who struck down the entire health reform law. However, the 11th Circuit said that the rest of the legislation can stand even if the mandate is unconstitutional. The panel also said that the law's expansion of Medicaid is constitutional, ruling against the states (Habercorn, 8/13).

PBS Newshour: Americans Can’t Be Forced To Buy Insurance, 11th Circuit Rules
Both sides pledge to take the issue all the way to the Supreme Court, which may decide to take up the case as early as this fall. The 11th Circuit Court sided with 26 states — mostly led by conservative governors and attorneys general — who are asking for the law to be blocked in its entirety. Their primary argument is that that forcing Americans to buy health insurance oversteps the bounds of the Commerce Clause in the Constitution, which allows the government to regulate economic activity. But the decision to forgo health insurance is not an economic activity and can't be regulated, they say (Kane, 8/12).

MarketWatch: Republicans Seize On Health Care Ruling
Multiple Republicans instantly seized on the 2-1 ruling, claiming it confirms what they've argued all along: that the law should be thrown out. "ObamaCare not only undermines the personal freedoms of the American people, it is a growing threat to the nation's job creators. That's why House Republicans have advanced a proposal to repeal the unconstitutional health care law," said Rep. John Kline, the Minnesota Republican who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee, in a typical comment. Specifically, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that Congress exceeded its constitutional powers when it required individuals to buy health insurance or pay a fine (Schroeder, 8/12).

CQ HealthBeat: Efforts May Intensify To Find Policy Patch For Health Care Law Minus The Mandate
The federal appeals court ruling Friday declaring the individual mandate in the health law unconstitutional may turn up the flame under efforts to find another way to prod uninsured Americans — especially young, healthy ones who are good insurance risks — to buy coverage. Lawmakers already have done a fair amount of thinking about the matter, given how controversial it is require people to carry health insurance as the health care law does. It's the least popular part of the law, according to polls. Alternatives range from reducing open-enrollment periods to buy coverage, charging penalties for late enrollment in health plans offered by insurance exchanges, and allowing people to opt out from carrying coverage if they sign a waiver saying they will be financially responsible for all of their health care costs if they decide to go without insurance (Reichard, 8/12).

Kaiser Health News has updated its legal challenge scoreboard (8/12). KHN also tracked headlines related to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the health law's individual mandate is unconstitutional.

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