Individual Mandate Of Obama Health Care Overhaul Is Deemed Constitutional… What’s Next?

by Dr Sam Girgis on July 2, 2011

In 2010, President Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act.  This law is meant to provide health care to all Americans, and has an individual mandate that states everyone in the United States is required to purchase health care insurance.  Since then, there have been many challenges to the legality and constitutionality of the law with particular emphasis on the individual mandate.  There are several attempts at overturning the law being heard in the judicial system.  On Wednesday, June 29, 2011 the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio found that the individual mandate as outlined by the Affordable Care Act was constitutional.  By this opinion of the court, Congress can require that all Americans purchase health insurance or face an income tax penalty as a result of noncompliance.  Interestingly, this opinion, upholding the law as constitutional, came from one Republican judge and one Democrat judge.  This ruling by the Cincinnati Court will be the first of three court of appeals opinions regarding the legality of the individual mandate.  The next opinions to be heard will come from the Fourth Circuit in Virginia and the Eleventh Circuit in Georgia.  The Cincinnati Court reviewed the case which was brought against the Affordable Care Act by a group of individual plaintiffs and the Christian organization Thomas More Law Center based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The plaintiffs have argued that Congress should not have the right to regulate an individual’s economic “inactivity” under the constitution’s commerce clause.  In addition, the requirement to obtain health insurance is viewed as one step closer to the complete loss of individual freedom.  The Cincinnati court concluded, “The provision regulates active participation in the health care market, and in any case, the Constitution imposes no categorical bar on regulating inactivity.  Thus, the minimum coverage provision is a valid exercise of Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause…”  Previous to this ruling, there have been 3 other federal district judges that have agreed with the legality of the Affordable Care Act with particular emphasis on the individual mandate requirement.  The various court cases against the Obama health care overhaul will continue to make their way through the federal appellate judicial system, but it is widely believed that one of these cases will eventually make its way to the United States Supreme Court.

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