Court Upholds Ruling that Health Care Law is Constitutional

June 29, 2011 ( – The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s ruling that the individual coverage mandate in the health care reform bill is constitutional.

The Associated Press reports that the three-judge appellate panel delivered a long opinion with disagreement on some issues, but it affirmed a Michigan federal judge’s earlier ruling that Congress can require Americans to have minimum insurance coverage.  

Last October, U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Congress rejected arguments by the Thomas More Law Center that Congress does not have the right to force people to buy health coverage or pay a penalty and that the situation does not qualify for coverage under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause because deciding whether to buy insurance is actually an inactivity rather than an economic exercise (see Judge Declares HCR Law Constitutional).   

Steeh found that “far from ‘inactivity, by choosing to forgo insurance, plaintiffs are making an economic decision to try to pay for health-care services later, out of pocket, rather than now through the purchase of insurance, collectively shifting billions of dollars . . . onto other market participants.”   

Finally Steeh contended that unless young and healthy people are required to purchase coverage, the pool of insured Americans would be skewed toward the sick. That, in turn, would make it impossible for insurers to comply with protections such as the law’s prohibition on discriminating against those with preexisting conditions.   

In December, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that the mandate in the health care reform law requiring most Americans to get health coverage or pay a penalty is unconstitutional (see Judge Strikes Down HCR Coverage Mandate).  

A ruling on a case in Florida, now joined by 28 state attorneys general, is still pending (see Court Green Lights FL HCR Challenge).