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DOJ files brief in Florida health care appeal

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Wednesday urged the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] to overturn a ruling [brief, PDF] declaring the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [HR 3590; JURIST news archive] unconstitutional. The DOJ argued that the health care reform law is constitutional due to the overwhelming burden on interstate commerce without the law's enactment:

Plaintiffs do not dispute that the commerce power allows Congress to regulate how people pay for services in the vast interstate health care services market, which is quintessential economic activity. They take issue, instead, with the means that Congress chose to regulate this economic activity. Plaintiffs urge that the correct way to ensure that people pay for the medical services they consume is not by imposing an insurance requirement, but by "imposing restrictions or penalties on individuals who attempt to consume health care services without insurance." ... Congress did not exceed its commerce power by opting to require minimum insurance coverage or the payment of a tax, instead of conditioning access to health care on the purchase of insurance and thereby denying the sick and injured access to medical care if they do not have coverage. Plaintiffs' proposed regulatory scheme disregards both the essential characteristics of the health care services market and the nature of insurance. Because the need for health care is unpredictable, plaintiffs' approach would require that individuals obtain insurance or else risk being left on the street after a car accident. Thus, under plaintiffs' scheme, the penalty for failing to maintain minimum coverage—denial of treatment—would be far more draconian than the tax penalty that Congress enacted.
In January, Judge Roger Vinson of the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] voided [JURIST report] the PPACA, saying that requiring all Americans over the age of 18 to have health insurance exceeded the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder]. The DOJ filed an appeal [JURIST report] in March.

Court challenges to the PPACA continue across the nation. Earlier this week, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) [advocacy website] sought reinstatement [JURIST report] of its dismissed lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the health care reform law. In April, the US Supreme Court denied [JURIST report] Virginia's request for the court to rule on the constitutionality of the health care reform law on an expedited basis. A judge for the US District Court for the District of New Jersey [official website] rejected [JURIST report] a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality, on jurisdictional grounds of standing [Cornell LII backgrounder], similar to a dismissal [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of New Hampshire [official website]. A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] struck down the law in January, while in October, a judge in Michigan upheld the law [JURIST report]. US Courts of Appeal for the Third, Sixth and Fourth circuits are all hearing oral arguments in appeals of lower court rulings, while appeals are pending in the DC circuit as well as the Eighth and Ninth circuits.

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