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Document: Appeals Court Strikes Down Individual Mandate In Health Law

The 304-page opinion from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ends with a short conclusion from Chief Judge Frederick Dubina and Circuit Judge Frank Hull. Below is that conclusion, followed by an excerpt from Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus, “concurring in part and dissenting in part.” 


We first conclude that the Act’s Medicaid expansion is constitutional.

Existing Supreme Court precedent does not establish that Congress’s inducements are unconstitutionally coercive, especially when the federal government will bear nearly all the costs of the program’s amplified enrollments.

Next, the individual mandate was enacted as a regulatory penalty, not a revenue-raising tax, and cannot be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Taxing and Spending Clause. The mandate is denominated as a penalty in the Act itself, and the legislative history and relevant case law confirm this reading of its function.

Further, the individual mandate exceeds Congress’s enumerated commerce power and is unconstitutional. 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. We have not found any generally applicable, judicially enforceable limiting principle that would permit us to uphold the mandate without obliterating the boundaries inherent in the system of enumerated congressional powers. “Uniqueness” is not a constitutional principle in any antecedent Supreme Court decision. The individual mandate also finds no refuge in the aggregation doctrine, for decisions to abstain from the purchase of a product or service, whatever their cumulative effect, lack a sufficient nexus to commerce.

The individual mandate, however, can be severed from the remainder of the Act’s myriad reforms. The presumption of severability is rooted in notions of judicial restraint and respect for the separation of powers in our constitutional system. The Act’s other provisions remain legally operative after the mandate’s excision, and the high burden needed under Supreme Court precedent to rebut the presumption of severability has not been met.

Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the district court.

AFFIRMED in part and REVERSED in part.

Dissenting excerpt from Judge Marcus:

Although it is surely true that there is no Supreme Court decision squarely on point dictating the result that the individual mandate is within the commerce power of Congress, the rationale embodied in the Court’s Commerce Clause decisions over more than 75 years makes clear that this legislation falls within Congress’ interstate commerce power. These decisions instruct us to ask whether the target of the regulation is economic in nature and whether Congress had a rational basis to conclude that the regulated conduct has a substantial effect on interstate commerce.

It cannot be denied that Congress has promulgated a rule by which to comprehensively regulate the timing and means of payment for the virtually inevitable consumption of health care services. Nor can it be denied that the consumption of health care services by the uninsured has a very substantial impact on interstate commerce — the shifting of substantial costs from those who do not pay to those who do and to the providers who offer care. I therefore respectfully dissent from the majority’s opinion insofar as it strikes down the individual mandate.

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States The Health Law