Latest Health Law Decision Pushes Challenges Toward Supreme Court

August 16, 2011

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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