NRL News

DC Appeals Court Upholds ObamaCare’s Individual Mandate Requirement

by | Nov 9, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

Two days before the Supreme Court justices will likely decide what to do this term with the multiple challenges to ObamaCare, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld a key proviso of ObamaCare—that most Americans get health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty (the so-called “individual mandate”). The case is not one that will figure into the justices’ calculation whether to resolve conflicting appeals court decisions, but the timing assured that the 2-1 decision received a lot of attention.

Three federal appellate courts – in Washington, in Richmond, Va., and in Cincinnati—have rejected challenges to the healthcare law. The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta backed such a challenge.

In that 2-1 ruling the Atlanta-based judges concluded Congress had overstepped its power by regulating the behavior of persons who do not wish to buy insurance. That lawsuit was brought by the attorneys general of 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business.

In the D.C. decision Judge Laurence Silberman and Judge Harry Edwards acknowledged that the insurance mandate is unprecedented.

“That a direct requirement for most Americans to purchase any product or service seems an intrusive exercise of legislative power surely explains why Congress has not used this authority before — but that seems to us a political judgment rather than a recognition of constitutional limitations,” they wrote in the court’s opinion. They added, “The right to be free from federal regulation is not absolute and yields to the imperative that Congress be free to forge national solutions to national problems.”

They also essentially agreed with the Obama administration’s position that health care is different. “The health insurance market is rather a unique one, both because virtually everyone will enter or affect it, and because the uninsured inflict a disproportionate harm on the rest of the market as a result of their later consumption of healthcare services,” they wrote.

Without taking a position on the merits of the law, Judge Brett Kavanaugh disagreed, arguing that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction to review the health care mandate until after it takes effect in 2014.

Should the High Court agreed to hear the case, it’s anticipated that a decision would come down next year, perhaps as the presidential election kicks into high gear 

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Categories: ObamaCare