On Friday, August 12, 2011, a federal appeal’s panel struck down a critical provision of the Patient Protectable and Affordable Care Act. The issue of whether the government can force individuals to buy their own health insurance has faced serious constitutional barriers and a series of conflicting judicial opinions. Thus far, 26 states have sued to stop the law from taking effect due to, among other factors, a provision requiring Americans to purchase their own health insurance if they can afford to do so.
With the varying court opinions on this, the issue may be heading to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the meantime, it will continue to be challenged as one of the most debatable topics of the Patient Protectable and Affordable Care Act. For the full article, click below:
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Scope of the Commerce Clause
Proponents of this provision, namely the White House, have argued that the legislative branch was well within its scope of authority to pass such a provision under the Commerce Clause. Historically, courts have ruled that Congress has broad, but not absolute powers, under the Commerce Clause. Proponents using the reasoning behind the Commerce Clause argue that this could have an aggregate effect on all Americans. When people elect not to purchase health insurance, it raises the premiums on everybody else not only for the health insurance of those who are insured, but on the overall cost of health care when the uninsured require emergency treatment that they did not pay for through any coverage. Another argument is that people are not required to purchase health insurance, as they can elect to pay a tax instead. However, this may amount to a penalty where both sides may argue as to its constitutionality.
In the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta, Chief Judge Joel Dubina and Circuit Judge Frank Hull found in a 207-page opinion that lawmakers cannot require people to "enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die." The court issued a strong and lengthy opinion as to the precedent they would set if they allowed the individual mandate provision to stand. While proponents of the law and this provision argue that Massachusetts has a similar law in place, opponents, including the opinion of this court, argue that federal enforcement may be problematic. Opinions like this are also significant because courts often conclude that the individual mandate provision is not severable from the rest of the act and renders the entire health care bill invalid.
Posted by Attorney Saif R. Kasmikha
Midwest Legal Partners, LLC