KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Federal Appeals Court In Cincinnati Upholds Health Law

The Wall Street Journal: "A federal appeals court in Cincinnati on Wednesday upheld the health-care law passed by Congress last year, saying the law's requirement for most Americans to carry insurance or pay a penalty is constitutional. The vote was 2-1 on the three-judge panel on the key question of whether the insurance requirement exceeded Congress's powers under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The majority concluded that it did not" (Landers, 6/29). 

The New York Times: "The ruling is the first of three opinions to be delivered by separate courts of appeal that heard arguments in the health care litigation in May and June. Opinions are expected soon from panels in both the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., and the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta. ... The appeal, which was heard by the court on June 1, came in a challenge to the law filed by the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative public interest law firm in Ann Arbor, Mich. In a 69-page ruling, the panel upheld Federal District Judge George C. Steeh of Detroit, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, who had concluded that choices to not obtain insurance were impactful commercial decisions that could be regulated by Congress" (Sacks, 6/29).

Los Angeles Times: "[F]ew legal experts expect that the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be settled until it is reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, likely next year. But the ruling Wednesday nonetheless marked a legal victory for the Obama administration and its Democratic allies (Levey and Savage, 6/29).

USA Today: "The three-judge panel delivered a long opinion Wednesday with disagreement on some issues. But it affirmed a Michigan federal judge's earlier ruling that Congress can require Americans to have minimum insurance coverage" (Stanglin, 6/29).

Reuters: The appeals court affirmed a lower court's ruling, "saying those who opt out of buying health insurance were still engaging in commerce because they were paying for healthcare services on their own and therefore the law was constitutional" (Pelofsky and Vicini, 6/29). "The three-judge panel voted 2-1 to uphold the law, with one of the court's most liberal members, Judge Boyce Martin Jr., and one of its most conservative, Judge Jeffrey Sutton, joining in the majority. Sutton expressed reservations about the law, but agreed with Martin that the requirement to purchase health insurance falls under Congress' powers under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution" (Horn, 6/29).

MSNBC: "One of the judges voting to uphold it was Jeffrey Sutton, an appointee of George W. Bush and a former law clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia. This brings to four the number of court decisions upholding the law. Two other courts have declared it unconstitutional on its long march to the Supreme Court" (Williams, 6/29).

Politico: "The court also agreed with the federal government that Congress had reason to think that allowing people to go uninsured would allow for 'free riders' to take advantage of the system - and other taxpayers. 'Although there is no firm, constitutional bar that prohibits Congress from placing regulations on what could be described as inactivity, even if there were it would not impact this case due to the unique aspects of health care that make all individuals active in this market,' Martin wrote" (Haberkorn, 6/29).

The Hill: The court's decision "directly validates the federal government's primary argument. Although the mandate's supporters thought a procedural ruling might be their best chance for a win in the 6th Circuit, the court said clearly that the mandate falls within Congress' power to regulate economic activity" Baker, 6/29).

The Associated Press: "The ruling is the first by a federal appeals court on the overhaul. The three-judge 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel delivered a long opinion Wednesday with disagreement on some issues" (Sewell, 6/29).

Read the the 6th Circuit's opinion here

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