On June 29, 2011, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling on the health reform law’s requirement that nearly all Americans buy insurance. The three-judge panel, including two Republican nominees, ruled 2-1 in favor of the mandate. The original suit was brought by the Thomas More Law Center, which argued that Congress has no legal right to impose the mandate.
Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr. wrote for the majority stating that the “minimum coverage provision is a valid exercise of legislative power by Congress under the Commerce Clause.” The court ruled that the mandate regulates economic activity with a substantial effect on interstate commerce, and thus is legal. 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.
The 6th Circuit is one of three appeals panels that heard oral arguments in suits over the mandate this spring and is the first to issue a ruling. Two more rulings are expected this summer by the 4th Circuit, which heard two cases brought by the Commonwealth of Virginia and Liberty University, and the 11th Circuit, which heard a high-profile case brought by 26 governors and attorneys general.
The most likely next step for the group is to petition the Supreme Court to overturn the 6th Circuit’s decision. The speed in which the 6th Circuit issued its ruling could ensure that the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to take up one of the health reform cases in the fall. If this happens, the high court’s ruling on the constitutionality of the law could come as early as next summer.
Opponents of the health reform law now need one of the other circuits to strike down the law, which would result in split circuit decisions and increase pressure for the Supreme Court to take on the issue.
For more information about health care reform or the ever-evolving healthcare landscape, please contact The Health Law Partners at (248) 996-8510 or (212) 734-0128, or visit the HLP website.