Friday, August 12, 2011

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Federal Appeals Court Rules Health Care Law’s Individual Mandate Unconstitutional

AUSTIN – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit today affirmed a lower court’s ruling and concluded that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. Calling the individual mandate “an unprecedented exercise of congressional power,” the court found that requiring Americans to purchase health insurance “exceeds Congress’ enumerated commerce power.” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott represented the State of Texas, which is part of the 26-state coalition that filed a legal challenge to the federal law, when the Atlanta-based appeals court held oral arguments in June.

“Obamacare is closer to an end. The federal court of appeals agrees that the federal health care law’s individual mandate violates the U.S. Constitution – and cannot be enforced against the American people. This is an important ruling for freedom and limited government,” Attorney General Abbott said.

Media links
Attorney General Abbott discusses today's decision
Attorney General Abbott discusses today's decision
Opinion of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

“As we have maintained since before the law was first enacted, the individual mandate exceeds the constitutional limits on Congress’ authority. The federal government cannot rely upon Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce in a misguided effort to require that every American purchase government-approved health insurance – whether they want it or not. No public policy goal, no matter how important or well-intentioned, can be allowed to trample the protections and rights guaranteed by our Constitution.”

Under the federal health care law, for the first time in the nation’s history, the federal government is attempting to force individual Americans to enter into contracts and purchase services from private companies – in this case, insurance companies – or face a penalty. Attorney General Abbott challenged this so-called individual mandate requirement, explaining that such an imposition on the American people exceeds Congress’ authority and violates Americans’ constitutional rights. Today’s Eleventh Circuit decision agreed with the States’ legal argument, explaining: “…what Congress cannot do under the Commerce Clause is mandate that individuals enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die.”

Striking down the unconstitutional individual mandate, the court said that the requirement not only imposes on individuals, but also “imperils our federalist structure.” In light of the overreaching mandate’s unparalleled interference with individual liberty, the court struck down the individual mandate because “the judiciary owes its ultimate deference to the Constitution.”

The bipartisan 26-state coalition currently includes Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Washington, Colorado, Michigan, Utah, Alabama, South Dakota, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Alaska, Iowa, Ohio, Kansas, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Maine. The states are joined in this lawsuit by the National Federation of Independent Business, and individual plaintiffs Mary Brown and Kaj Ahlburg.

The multistate lawsuit was filed shortly after President Barack Obama signed the bill into law. The legal action specifically challenges the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and names the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor as defendants because those federal agencies are charged with implementing the Act’s constitutionally impermissible provisions.

Key Quotes From Today’s Ruling:

“The fact that Congress has never before exercised this supposed authority is telling.”

“If Congress may compel individuals to purchase health insurance from a private company, it may similarly compel the purchase of other products from private industry…”

“Here, it is undisputed that the individual mandate supersedes a multitude of the states’ policy choices in these key areas of traditional state concern.”

“…what Congress cannot do under the Commerce Clause is mandate that individuals enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die.”

“It cannot be denied that the individual mandate is an unprecedented exercise of congressional power.”

“The structure of the Constitution interposes obstacles by design, in order to prevent the arrogation of power by one branch or one sovereign.”

“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. 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.”