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Appeals court declares 'individual mandate' unconstitutional

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | August 12, 2011
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta struck down a crucial part of President Obama's health care reform on Friday, declaring the "individual mandate" unconstitutional, according to reports.

The mandate, which many consider critical for the Affordable Care Act, requires everyone to have health insurance by 2014 or face fines.

In a 2-1 decision, the judges ruled that the mandate exceeded the powers granted to the Congress under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

"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," the two judges said in their 300-page, majority opinion, according to Reuters.

In their ruling, the judges largely upheld the January decision by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, who also declared the individual mandate unconstitutional. However, the judges said the law itself could stand, shorn of the individual mandate, a departure from Vinson, who said it was so embedded in the act that the entire law must be scrapped.

But so far, there have been conflicting rulings. In June, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found the mandate constitutional, a decision which has since been appealed.

The current suit was brought by 26 states, mostly led by Republican governors and attorneys general, according to Politico. Judge Frank Hull, who along with Chief Judge Joel Dubina, moved to strike down the mandate, was the first judge appointed by a Democrat to vote against the individual mandate, Politico said. Hull was a Clinton appointee. (Dubina was tapped by President Bush.)

The administration is expected to appeal the decision, and it's widely believed the Supreme Court will take up the matter in its next term, which begins in October, Reuters said.

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