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11th Circuit Court Finds Individual Health Insurance Mandate Unconstitutional

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

BOISE, Idaho — The Atlanta based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the individual mandate of the Obama Health Care Act is unconstitutional.  The decision sides with the argument raised by 26 states including Idaho that the individual mandate that requires people to enter into contracts with private insurance companies.  The three justices on the panel lead by Chief Judge Joel Dubina said that provision “exceeds Congress enumerated commerce power”.

The Judges said in the 304-page ruling that the plaintiffs claim all of the health care act is unconstitutional while the defendant’s or federal government claims the entire act is constitutional.  They explain they broke their decision into the 5-parts of the health care act including:

  • The Insurance Industry Reforms
  • The new state-run exchanges
  • The individual mandate
  • The employer Penalties
  • Medicaid Expansion

After looking at the individual parts of the bill, they have concluded that portions of the bill are constitutional including the Medicaid Expansion portion.  But they have determined the Individual Mandate is not.  By this, the panel explains that any federal law that forces states to enact laws that uphold a federal law is in violation of the 10th Amendment.

“The Federal Government may
neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor
command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or
enforce a federal regulatory program.”

Instead of following Judge Roger Vinson’s ruling in the Florida District Court that found the entire act as unconstitutional.  The panel found only the Individual Mandate unconstitutional and thus sever-able.  But they also say in the opinion that there lacks any real precedent that would give them a clear path to follow in this case “it may be that in time the law will come to breathe practical life into the Tenth Amendment’s reservation of power to the people, but that day has not yet arrived.”

“it may be that in time the law will come to breathe practical life into the Tenth Amendment’s reservation of power to the people, but that day has not yet arrived.”

So what does this mean?  This is the highest court that has addressed the constitutionality of the health care act so far.  The federal defendants have the ability to appeal now to the highest court in the land which is the U.S. Supreme Court.  It’s also possible the defendants could re-tool the individual mandate portion to patch the problems raised by the court or even abandon that portion.

Read the Findings here.

The 26 state plaintiffs are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho,
Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North
Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington,
Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

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