KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

11th Circuit Court Of Appeals Finds The Health Law’s Individual Mandate Unconstitutional

The 2-to-1 decision marks a major blow to the Obama administration in its legal battle over the health law. But in the ruling, which addresses the challenge filed by 26 states, the court also disagreed with a lower court's ruling and will allow other provisions of the law to remain "legally operative." 

The Wall Street Journal: The 2-1 ruling marks the Obama administration's biggest defeat to date in the multifront legal battle over the health-care law. The decision directly conflicts with a ruling issued in June by a federal appeals court in Cincinnati that upheld the law. ... The decision affirmed part of a January ruling by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Florida, who ruled the health-insurance mandate unconstitutional. The appeals court, however, overturned the portion of Judge Vinson's decision that voided the entire health-care law. The appeals panel said the unconstitutional insurance mandate could be severed from the rest of the law, with other provisions remaining "legally operative" (Kendall, 8/12).

Kaiser Health News has the entire PDF of the ruling as well as an excerpt of the conclusion.  KHN also provides an updated scorecard tracking the health law court challenges.

The Washington Post: Appeals Court Strikes Down Health-Care Law's Insurance Mandate
The two judges in the majority called the law's insurance requirement a "wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority." And they rejected the government's contention that unique features of the health-care and health insurance markets justified the mandate under Congress's constitutional right to regulate commerce. "We are unable to conceive of any product whose purchase Congress could not mandate under this line of argument," wrote Chief Judge Joel Dubina and Circuit Judge Frank Hull (Aizenman and Barnes, 8/12). 

The New York Times: Health Law Mandate Is Rejected By Court
The court found that Congress exceeded its powers to regulate commerce when it decided to require people to buy health insurance, a provision of the health care law known as the "individual mandate." But the court held that while that provision was unconstitutional, the rest of the wide-ranging law could stand (Cooper, 8/12).

PBS News Hour: Americans Can't Be Forced To Buy Insurance, 11th Circuit Rules
The 11th Circuit is considered one of the most conservative in the nation -- though none of the three judges are known for being particularly partisan. Their decision partially overturns the lower court ruling by Florida Judge Roger Vinson, who said that the individual mandate is not only unconstitutional but represents such an integral part of the reform law that the entire law would need to be disassembled (Kane, 8/12).

The Hill: Appeals Court Rules Healthcare Law's Individual Mandate Unconstitutional
The Obama administration is now 1-1 in federal appeals courts in defending the healthcare law, and the rulings have defied partisan lines. Judge Frank Hull, who was appointed by President Clinton, was part of the 11th Circuit's 2-1 majority that ruled Friday against the mandate. A George W. Bush appointee on the 6th Circuit, in contrast, upheld it in an earlier ruling. The 11th Circuit Court didn't consider the mandate along the same lines as other courts have. Generally, the two sides have clashed over whether the insurance requirement regulates "economic activity," which Congress has the power to do under the commerce clause of the Constitution, or instead compels to people to participate in an economic activity, as opponents of the law argue. The 11th Circuit largely bypassed that distinction, though it made clear that the mandate is unprecedented (Baker, 8/12).

The Los Angeles Times: Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Insurance Mandate
About 50 million Americans lack basic health insurance. As a result, hospitals and taxpayers are forced to pay about $43 billion a year to cover the costs of those who are treated but cannot pay. Many healthcare experts believe an insurance mandate is crucial not only to controlling this cost shift but also to guaranteeing that all Americans can get insurance, a right provided by the law. Without such a requirement, they argue, consumers would be able to wait until they were sick to buy insurance. That in turn would push up premiums. However, the mandate galvanized GOP opposition to the law and helped fuel the "tea party" movement (Savage and Levey, 8/12).

Politico: The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ruled that the health care reform law's requirement that nearly all Americans buy insurance is unconstitutional, a striking blow to the legislation. The suit was brought by 26 states - nearly all led by Republican governors and attorneys general. The Department of Justice is expected to appeal (Haberkorn, 8/12).

Bloomberg Businessweek: Stephanie Cutter, a deputy senior adviser to (President Barack) Obama, said in an Internet posting that "we strongly disagree with this decision and we are confident it will not stand." "The individual responsibility provision -- the main part of the law at issue in these cases -- is constitutional," Cutter said. "Those who claim this provision exceeds Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce are incorrect" (Harris, 8/13).

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