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Third Circuit hears arguments in health care law challenge

A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] heard arguments on Wednesday regarding the constitutionality of the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [HR 3590 text; JURIST news archive], specifically the individual mandate provision that penalizes all citizens who fail to purchase health insurance. New Jersey Physicians, Inc. [advocacy website], a nonprofit physician organization, filed the complaint [text, PDF] last year, arguing that PPACA goes beyond Congress's enumerated powers in the US Constitution by penalizing individuals who choose not to buy health insurance and preventing doctors from receiving payments directly from patients. The organization filed an appeal after a judge for the US District Court for the District of New Jersey [official website] dismissed the lawsuit [JURIST report] in December, ruling that the health care reform law does not cause the alleged harms and does not violate the Constitution. Wednesday's arguments [AP report] focused primarily on whether or not the plaintiffs had standing to sue since the law is not being implemented until 2014 and, therefore, the plaintiffs have not yet suffered economic harm.

Similar cases regarding the constitutionality of PPACA are being heard in federal courts across the nation. 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 Deparment of Justice (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 Sixth Circuit [official website] heard arguments [JURIST report] in a similar challenge to the constitutionality of the individual mandate brought by the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) [advocacy website]. The appeal stems from a ruling upholding [JURIST report] PPACA and the contested requirement. 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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