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Health reform's individual mandate is unconstitutional says Atlanta appeals court

A federal appeals court in Atlanta concluded Friday that the individual mandate in the health reform law is unconstitutional and that it can be severed from the rest of the law. A lower court ruling held that the mandate was unconstitutional and could not be removed from the whole.

The three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said that the individual mandate "was enacted as a regulatory penalty, not a revenue-raising tax," and it "exceeds Congress's enumerated commerce power."

"This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives," read the judgment. "We have not found any generally applicable, judicially enforceable limiting principle that would permit us to uphold the mandate without obliterating the boundaries inherent in the system of enumerated congressional powers. 'Uniqueness' is not a constitutional principle in any antecedent Supreme Court decision."

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The judges upheld the lower court's ruling that the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid is constitutional. The judges concluded that states participating in Medicaid may choose to take part in the expansion, so, "Where an entity has a real choice, there can be no coercion," said the judgment.

The original suit was brought against the federal government by 26 states, two private individuals and the National Federation of Independent Business. Friday's judgment is expected to be appealed.

[See also: Appeals court upholds constitutionality of individual mandate; Appeals court hears arguments against ACA.]

"There has been no shortage of court cases regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act," said the White House in a blog posted Friday afternoon. "Before today, four courts, including the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, examined the health reform law and found it constitutional. Today, a different court ruled against the Affordable Care Act's individual responsibility provision. We strongly disagree with this decision and we are confident it will not stand."