Obama Administration Asks for High Court Review of Health Care Law

September 29, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to hear its appeal of a decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which struck down the centerpiece of the law by a 2-to-1 vote.

“The department has consistently and successfully defended this law in several courts of appeals, and only the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled it unconstitutional,” the Justice Department said in a statement, according to the New York Times. “We believe the question is appropriate for review by the Supreme Court.    

“Throughout history, there have been similar challenges to other landmark legislation, such as the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, and all of those challenges failed.  We believe the challenges to the Affordable Care Act — like the one in the 11th Circuit — will also ultimately fail and that the Supreme Court will uphold the law.”   

The Times reports that on Monday, the administration announced it would not seek review from the full 11th Circuit. Its Supreme Court petition was not due until November.   

The administration did not explain why it did not take routine litigation steps that might have slowed the progress of the challenges enough to avoid a decision in the current Supreme Court term. It did say in its brief that the 11th Circuit’s decision striking down the central piece of a comprehensive regulatory scheme created “a matter of grave national importance.”   

The news report noted that the three federal courts of appeal that have issued decisions on the law so far have all reached different conclusions, with one upholding it, a second — the 11th Circuit— striking it down in part, and a third saying that threshold legal issues barred an immediate ruling. A fourth challenge to the law was heard last week by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.   

Although the 11th Circuit agreed with the 26 States in the 11th Circuit Case that the Act’s individual mandate requirement violates the Constitution, the States have asked the Supreme Court to review three other aspects of the opinion: (1) whether the entire Act must fail because its centerpiece – the mandate that every person purchase insurance – is unconstitutional; (2) whether the federal government can force the states to administer and fund a substantial expansion of Medicaid or risk all of their Medicaid funding; and (3) whether the federal government can require States to give state employees a federally mandated level of health insurance coverage (see Plaintiffs in Florida HCR Challenge Request Supreme Court Review).