Appeals court rules against Obama healthcare law

August 12, 2011
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An appeals court ruled Friday that President Barack Obama’s healthcare law requiring Americans to buy healthcare insurance or face a penalty was unconstitutional, a blow to the White House.

The Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, found that Congress exceeded its authority by requiring Americans to buy coverage, but also ruled that the rest of the wide-ranging law could remain in effect.

The legality of the so-called individual mandate, a cornerstone of the 2010 healthcare law, is widely expected to be decided by the Supreme Court. The Obama administration has defended the provision as constitutional.

The case stems from a challenge by 26 U.S. states which had argued the individual mandate, set to go into effect in 2014, was unconstitutional because Congress could not force Americans to buy health insurance or face the prospect of a penalty.

“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,” a divided three-judge panel said.

Obama and his administration had pressed for the law to help halt the steep increases in healthcare costs and expand insurance coverage to the more than 30 million Americans who are without it.

It argued that the requirement was legal under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. One of the three judges of the appeals court panel, Stanley Marcus, agreed with the administration in dissenting from the majority opinion.

The majority “has ignored the undeniable fact that Congress’ commerce power has grown exponentially over the past two centuries and is now generally accepted as having afforded Congress the authority to create rules regulating large areas of our national economy,” Marcus wrote.

Many other provisions of the healthcare law are already being implemented.

The decision contrasts with one by the U.S. Appeals Court for the 6th Circuit, based in Cincinnati, which had upheld the individual mandate as constitutional. That case has already been appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, has yet to rule on a separate challenge by the state of Virginia.

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2 Responses to Appeals court rules against Obama healthcare law

  1. Appeals court rules against Obama healthcare law | TX HEALTH INSURANCE | Insurance on August 13, 2011 at 8:03 am

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  2. michael on March 28, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Preparing for the possibility that the Supreme Court will rule against the overhaul, his campaign reaches out to voters who would be hurt most and who could help determine the political impact of the loss.Even before the Supreme Court heard arguments about the constitutionality of the federal healthcare law, President Obama’s campaign had begun targeting key voter groups that might be most affected by a loss.

    If the justices rule against the law — an outcome that many think they strongly signaled during arguments Tuesday and Wednesday — the way those slices of the electorate respond could go a long way toward determining the political impact.

    The decision will land in the middle of the 2012 presidential campaign, and although striking down the health law would be a huge policy defeat for Obama, analysts in both parties say that under some scenarios, he could gain politically by losing judicially.

    Republicans will celebrate if the court strikes down the requirement that individuals buy insurance — the least-liked part of Obama’s signature legislative achievement. A Supreme Court ruling in their favor would validate GOP charges that Obama’s plan is an unconstitutional overreach by the federal government.

    But a ruling against the law would mean “that one of the most unpopular parts of the Obama record is obliterated without an election,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “That leaves plenty of other unpopular parts of the Obama record to run against, but it eliminates probably the most visible source of contention for center-right voters.”

    From Obama’s standpoint, an adverse ruling could add fresh urgency to his attempts to reenergize dissatisfied elements of his liberal base. President Reagan’s reelection paved the way for the conservative court of today. In his second term, Reagan appointed conservative stalwart Antonin Scalia and swing juristAnthony M. Kennedy, and Obama can be expected to argue that his reelection would block a further shift to the right under a new Republican president.

    If the justices throw out the administration’s healthcare overhaul, it “might boomerang” on the Republicans, said Democratic pollster Mark Penn. “It will rally a lot of supporters to Obama, because they’ll be worried that they won’t be able to get the protections of universal healthcare.”

    It’s exactly those supporters on whom the Obama campaign’s stepped-up outreach efforts have focused — particularly women, minorities and seniors. The campaign in recent days has organized events including phone banks in Ohio, a potluck in New Hampshire and a house party in New Mexico, all part of a “Women’s Week of Action.” In Virginia, Nurses for Obama was working to raise awareness about the law’s benefits and train volunteers.

    The campaign also released a report, in English and Spanish, detailing how as many as 9 million Latinos stood to gain coverage because of the law. Nearly a third of Latinos are uninsured, three times the rate for whites.

    Absent from the campaign is the president himself, who has largely confined his comments on the issue to appearances at private fundraising events.

    Democratic pollster Paul Maslin, noting the unpopularity of the healthcare law, said an unfavorable ruling “is not going to have some profound impact on an election that’s going to be dominated by the economy, by candidate perceptions and world events.” But the election may be so close that “a few minor things could be critical, and this could be one of them,” he added.

    The latest polling indicates that Americans’ views have changed only marginally in the two years since Obama signed the law, though there were some positive indicators for his side. A CNN/Opinion Research survey released this week found 43% of respondents were in favor of the law and 50% against.

    The favorable view had gone up 5 percentage points since November to the highest level in more than a year; the opposition was the lowest recorded by the firm. Support for the law was highest among nonwhite voters, 58% of whom favored the measure. The biggest gains in the survey were among women — from 37% to 47% in favor — and independents — from 32% favoring the law in November to 41% today.

    Repealing “Obamacare” has easily been the most reliable applause line for the 2012 Republican presidential candidates. The party’s likely nominee, Mitt Romney, has vowed to let states opt out of the law if he becomes president, even though an individual mandate was the centerpiece of the universal coverage plan he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts. Obama has tweaked Romney over the issue by praising the Massachusetts law.

    As the Obama campaign focuses on the issue, two impulses seem to be at work: a short-term effort timed to coincide with the two-year anniversary of the law and a general election strategy aimed at voting blocs that the campaign is courting.

    In addition to the national report on how the law will affect Latinos, state-specific guides were circulated locally in battleground states. The Democratic National Committee paid for a campaign that sent 1 million pieces of mail to many of the same voters the campaign has wooed, promoting provisions such as coverage for children on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.

    There is also a broader national effort to rally Democrats behind the Republicans’ favorite derisive shorthand for the president’s plan — “Obamacare.” Supporters have been encouraged to send Twitter messages highlighting their favorite provisions of the law by using the hash tag #ilikeobamacare. It quickly became a top trending topic on the micro-blogging site.

    “I like Obamacare” T-shirts are selling for $30 on the campaign’s website, as is another that refers to Vice President Joe Biden’scelebratory declaration to the president on the day the law was signed, which was overheard via a live microphone at the White House. It reads: “Health reform still a BFD.”