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6th Circuit Court Upholds Individual Mandate

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ACA’s individual mandate, which requires most Americans to have health insurance. The 6th Circuit upheld a lower court ruling in a suit brought by the Thomas More Law Center. The three-judge panel, which includes two Republican nominees, voted 2-1 in favor of the mandate. Jeffrey S. Sutton, a George W. Bush nominee, is the first Republican-nominated judge to rule in such a manner.

In writing for the majority, Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr. stated: “We find that the minimum coverage provision is a valid exercise of legislative power by Congress under the Commerce Clause.”

Sutton, who previously clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, wrote:

“No one is inactive when deciding how to pay for health care, as self-insurance and private insurance are two forms of action for addressing the same risk. Each requires affirmative choices; one is no less active than the other; and both affect commerce.”

Martin addressed the challengers’ argument regarding “inactivity”:

“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.”

James L. Graham, a Reagan nominee, voiced his dissent:

“If the exercise of power is allowed and the mandate upheld, it is difficult to see what the limits on Congress’s Commerce Clause authority would be. What aspect of human activity would escape federal power? The ultimate issue in this case is this: Does the notion of federalism still have vitality?”

Additional rulings are expected in other circuit courts; the 4th Circuit heard two cases brought on by the Commonwealth of Virginia and Liberty University, and the 11th Circuit heard a case brought by 26 governors and attorneys general. The 4th Circuit panel hinted that it would uphold the mandate, while the 11th Circuit has been more ambiguous.

Read more about the individual mandate in the context of the January 2011 Florida ruling here. The full opinion is available for download here.

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