August 12, 2011 Print

Federal Court Strikes Down Key Provision of ObamaCare

by Karla Dial

In a landmark decision, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that the key tentpole in President Obama’s federal health care law — a mandate to force all American adults to buy health insurance or pay a penalty fee — is unconstitutional.

The court, in a 2-1 decision, partially upheld and partially reversed a decision by a lower court in a lawsuit brought by 26 states. The lower court struck down the entire law, while the 11thCircuit found that as long as the individual mandate was excised, the rest of ObamaCare might go forward.

“The 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,” the justices wrote.

But without the funds the mandate would have generated, experts question whether the $848 billion package of reforms could move forward. Without a mandate, Americans who choose to eschew health insurance will continue to do so — meaning the cost of implementing the law’s remaining provisions will skyrocket even more.

“This all but guarantees that the Supreme Court is going to have to hear this case, and very likely will hear this case next term,” said Robert Alt, a senior legal fellow and deputy director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., adding that the Court will most likely give today’s decision the most weight. “I’m not aware of any time in our nation’s history when more than half the states have actively sued the United States over a law. And I think the Supreme Court is going to take this case very seriously.

“This is a real check, quite frankly, on what was a gross overstep by Congress.”

The Obama administration has 90 days to either appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, or ask the all 11 judges of the 11th Circuit to review it.

The majority justices were Frank Hull, appointed by former President Bill Clinton, and Chief Judge Joel Dubina, appointed by former President George H.W. Bush. Dissenting was Clinton appointee Stanley Marcus, who believed the mandate to be constitutional.

Read the 11th Circuit’s opinion.

Learn more about the multi-state lawsuit.

Complete list of ObamaCare lawsuits.

ObamaCare 411: Learn more about various aspects of ObamaCare.

Watch interviews on ObamaCare, lawsuits.

Defend Your Health Care

Friday Five: Lawyer John Stemberger on ObamaCare Lawsuits