DC Appellate Court upholds constitutionality of Obamacare
Talking Points Memo reminds us that there are still ongoing legal issues regarding our healthcare system:
A three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals — comprised of two judges appointed by Republican presidents and one by a Democrat — upheld the constitutionality of a key section of President Obama’s health care law in a ruling released Tuesday.
Senior Judge Laurence Silberman and Judge Harry Edwards ruled to uphold the law — specifically the mandate that requires Americans to purchase health insurance — on the merits. Judge Brett Kavanaugh dissented from their ruling, but he, too, would have ruled against the plaintiffs seeking to overturn the mandate. His opinion argued that federal courts lack jurisdiction to enjoin the mandate, which functions similarly to a tax.
Update: See Mark Thoma’s article on Why we need an individual mandate for health insurance.
I heard about conservtive Silberman decision on NPR last night. Thoma does not really offer a good explanation for this decision and the significance of it. In the absence of Bev, I will attempt to give my knowledge of its importance.
You may remember this post by Beverly Mann on Paul Clement who left a firm to lead the charge by 26 states to challenge the ACA. http://www.angrybearblog.com/2011/06/paul-clements-weird-tail-can-morph-dog.html “Paul Clement’s weird tail-can-morph-the-dog ACA-litigation argument” In this particular instance, Paul Clement has lost.
The significance of this decision lies in Silberman deciding the mandate issue.
“Wickard v. Filburn, upholding Congress’s power to pass a law that went so far that it barred a single wheat farmer from growing the crop on his own land in order to help feed his family and his livestock, with no intention of selling it in the wheat market. That precedent, Judge Silberman wrote, went far to erode the distinction between commerce among the states and local commerce.
“Wickard,” the opinion said, “comes very close to authorizing a mandate similar to” the one in the health care law. The effect of the federal law at issue in that case, the opinion said, was to force any farmer into the wheat market — in the same way that the new insurance mandate forces some private individuals into the health coverage market even if they don’t want to be there. Congress, the panel commented, “is merely imposing the [insurance] mandate in reasonable anticipation of virtually inevitable future transactions in interstate commerce.”
The new mandate, according to the opinion, is, indeed, “novel,” but it said that so is the argument of those challenging it.
Judge Silberman wrote that the panel felt “some discomfort” that government lawyers had not offered “any clear doctrinal principles limiting congressional mandates that any American purchase any product or service in interstate commerce.” But it quickly added that the panel itself could not identify any such limits, “either because the power to require the entry into commerce is symmetrical with the power to prohibit or condition commercial behavior, or because we have not yet perceived a qualitative limitation.”