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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sixth Circuit finds health care reform law's individual mandate constitutional
Erin Bock at 7:32 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday found [opinion, PDF] the individual mandate provision of the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [HR 3590 text; JURIST news archive] constitutional. The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) [advocacy website], joined by four individuals, challenged the individual mandate provision of PPACA, arguing that it unconstitutionally compels the purchase of health insurance. The plaintiffs sought a declaration that Congress lacks authority under the Commerce Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] to pass such a provision or, in the alternative, that the penalty for not purchasing insurance is an unconstitutional tax. Initially, the court determined that the penalty is not a tax for purposes of the Internal Revenue Code [text]. The Court went on to state that the health care market "is large and is inextricably linked to interstate commerce" and that those who choose to not purchase health insurance substantially affect interstate commerce through cost-shifting that drives up insurance premiums. As a result, the Court determined that Congress did not violate the Commerce Clause, finding it had a rational basis for the individual mandate because "the provision regulates active participation in the health care market, and in any case, the Constitution imposes no categorical bar on regulating inactivity." The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], which argued on behalf of the government, issued a statement [text] welcoming the ruling and pledging that the DOJ will continue to defend PPACA. The statement went on to compare PPACA to legislative challenges that failed in the past, such as the Social Security Act and Civil Rights Act and finally stated, "[w]e believe these challenges to health reform will also fail." The TMLC plans to appeal [AP report] to the Supreme Court [official website].

Similar cases regarding the constitutionality of PPACA are being heard in federal courts across the nation. Last week, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] heard arguments [JURIST report] regarding the constitutionality of the individual mandate. Earlier this month, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] heard arguments [JURIST report] regarding the constitutionality of the individual mandate. The appeal was brought by the DOJ after the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] struck down the entire health care law after it determined that the individual mandate exceeds Congress' authority [JURIST report] under the Commerce Clause. Also this month, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] decided it can rule on two challenges to PPACA after the court requested briefs [JURIST report] from all parties on whether the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA) [text], which prevents injunctions against taxes before the tax is imposed, would bar review of PPACA until it is implemented. The Fourth Circuit already heard arguments [JURIST report] in May to resolve a split decision between the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruling against the individual mandate and the Western District of Virginia dismissing a challenge [JURIST reports].

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