Health Insurance mandate struck down by Federal Appeals Court
The part of President Barack Obama’s health care plan, aimed at making health insurance affordable, which requires every American to carry health insurance was struck down Friday by the 11th circuit federal court of appeals. The rejection is a huge blow to Obama’s health care plan, as most experts agree that it is the foundation for the entirety of the health care plan.
The part of the plan that was rejected has been called the “individual mandate” since its introduction and has been touted by many as unconstitutional. The individual mandate requires all Americans who can afford health insurance purchase some kind of minimal coverage. Legally, “individuals who can afford health insurance” is defined by the portion of the population for whom the cost of health insurance would not take up more than eight percent of their income and whose earnings place them above the poverty line. Therefore, in reality, those who cannot afford health insurance, as defined by this mandate, would not be required to purchase it.
Many argue that the fee for not carrying health insurance is far less than paying for the health insurance itself, so the smart consumer who doesn’t want health insurance would simply pay the fee. In the current system, that would not be a smart move because if the citizen became sick, he would not be allowed to purchase health insurance at that point. The reformed system was designed to eliminate the “pre-existing condition” rule, so the citizen could simply purchase health insurance when he became ill.
Those who argue against the mandate say the traditional things Americans have always been made to do by the government – including register for the draft, pay taxes and fill out the census form – are necessary to the continued running of the government. How, they argue, can having a health insurance policy be made mandatory when it has no bearing on the government? While critics of the mandate have argued its unconstitutionality, proponents have said the legislative branch of the government is simply exercising its quintessential power. Twenty-six states had previously sued to block the law.
Maine Governor Paul LePage, Republican, said he was happy with the court’s rejection of the mandate.
“It illustrates the federal government’s powers are not limitless,” LePage said. “This takes us one step closer to the Supreme Court upholding our liberties under the U.S. Constitution. I want to thank Maine Attorney General William Schneider for his efforts. Today’s opinion validates his decision to join with the other states in this lawsuit.”
Though there is a contingent of the government pleased with the ruling, White House adviser Stephanie Cutter said the administration was confident the ruling would not stand as issued and was not in agreement with the court.
“Individuals who choose to go without health insurance are making an economic decision that affects all of us - when people without insurance obtain health care they cannot pay for, those with insurance and taxpayers are often left to pick up the tab,” Cutter said.
Those who are experts in the law and argued on both sides of the mandate had long expected the issue to end up in the Supreme Court.
“There needs to be a pronouncement that's nationwide," said University of Richmond School of Law Professor Carl Tobias. "It would be almost impossible to implement it if we have splintered decisions from different geographic circuits. The Supreme Court may feel now it has to take it."
Los Angeles-based health-care attorney J. Peter Rich said that if the Supreme Court were to tackle the issue it would be a first.
"They have never ruled on this specific issue," he said. "This really is a case of first impression, although the Obama administration may try to argue otherwise."
One of the judges in the court, Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus, dissented, accusing the majority of “"undeniable fact that Congress' commerce power has grown exponentially over the past two centuries." His written opinion was the Congress has long had the power to create rules regulating economy throughout the nation.
This is not the first time the mandate has been tested. In June, a Federal Appeals Court in Cincinnati upheld the individual mandate and many lower court judges have written opinions about the law.
There has never been a mandate, in the 200-year history of the United States, that mandates a citizen enter into a contract with a private company for the entirety of the citizen’s life.