U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds Obama Health Care Law

November 9, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a split opinion on Tuesday, upholding the lower court’s ruling that Congress did not overstep its authority in requiring people to buy health insurance or pay a penalty on their taxes.
According to the Associated Press, the requirement is the most controversial requirement of President Obama’s signature domestic legislative achievement and the focus of conflicting opinions from judges across the country. The Supreme Court is expected to decide soon whether to accept appeals from some of those earlier rulings (see “Obama Administration Asks for High Court Review of Health Care Law”).

The suit in Washington was brought by the American Center for Law and Justice, a legal group founded by evangelist Pat Robertson. It claimed that the insurance mandate is unconstitutional because it forces Americans to buy a product for the rest of their lives and that it violates the religious freedom of those who choose not to have insurance because they rely on God to protect them from harm. But the court ruled that Congress had the power to pass the requirement to ensure that all Americans can have health care coverage, even if it infringes on individual liberty.

“The right to be free from federal regulation is not absolute and yields to the imperative that Congress be free to forge national solutions to national problems,” Judge Laurence Silberman wrote in the court’s opinion. Silberman was joined by Judge Harry Edwards.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh disagreed with the conclusion without taking a position on the merits of the law. He wrote a lengthy opinion arguing the court doesn’t have jurisdiction to review the health care mandate until after it takes effect in 2014.