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Federal health care mandate is constitutional

The individual mandate enacted as part of the federal health care reform law does not violate the Commerce Clause, the 6th Circuit has ruled.

The decision affirms a ruling from a U.S. District Court in Michigan. (See “New health care mandate is constitutional,” Lawyers USA, Oct. 13, 2010.)

President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law in 2010. Section 1501 of the Act, known as the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision, imposes a tax penalty on those who fail to purchase a minimum level of health insurance beginning in 2014.

In this case, a public interest law firm and several taxpayers sued to enjoin the implementation of the Act, arguing that the individual mandate violated the Commerce Clause.

Specifically, the plaintiffs argued that Congress exceeded its powers by interfering with an individual’s choice to refrain from paying for health coverage.

But the court decided that the Act’s individual mandate is constitutional.

“Congress had a rational basis for concluding that the minimum coverage provision is essential to the Affordable Care Act’s larger reforms to the national markets in health care delivery and health insurance,” the court said.

Similar conclusions have been reached by federal judges in the District of Columbia and the Western District of Virginia, whereas the Act has been declared unconstitutional by federal judges in the Northern District of Florida and the Eastern District of Virginia.

U.S. Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit. Thomas More Law Center v. Obama, No. 10-2388. June 29, 2011. Lawyers USA No. 993-3052.

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