Eleventh Circuit strikes down the individual mandate

As you likely already know, a three-judge panel from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based here in Atlanta, struck down the requirement on Americans to purchase health insurance, the central part of ObamaCare:

President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law suffered a setback on Friday when an appeals court ruled that it was unconstitutional to require all Americans to buy insurance or face a penalty.

The U.S. Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, ruled 2 to 1 that Congress exceeded its authority by requiring Americans to buy coverage, but it unanimously reversed a lower court decision that threw out the entire law.
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Twenty-six states together had challenged the mandate, arguing that Congress had exceeded its authority by imposing such a requirement. But the Obama administration had argued it was legal under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

A federal judge in Florida sided with the states and struck down the entire law, leading the administration to appeal.

A divided three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit found that it did not pass muster under that clause or under the power of Congress to tax. The administration has said the penalty for not buying healthcare coverage is akin to a tax.

“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 repurchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives,” the majority said in its 207-page opinion.

That opinion was jointly written by Judges Joel Dubina, who was appointed to the appeals court by Republican President George H.W. Bush, and by Frank Hull, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens, who were a party to this case, praised the ruling:

Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens praised the federal appeals court ruling that struck down the individual mandate in Obamacare as unconstitutional. In a joint statement, Deal and Olens said Georgia will continue to press its case that the whole law should be declared unconstitutional – an issue the Supreme Court will ultimately have to decide.

“We applaud today’s ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit striking down the individual mandate as ‘a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority.’ Today’s ruling recognizes the core principles of our federalist system and reminds an over-reaching federal government that the Constitution applies to it, too.

“We do not, however, agree with all findings in the decision. Unlike the 11th Circuit, we believe that the Obama administration should be taken at its word that the individual mandate is crucial to the whole bill, and that the whole bill should be struck down. But this much is certain: Federal healthcare reform is on life support, and this case will be decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. Today is a huge step toward victory, but it is also a day that emphasizes the importance of the work ahead.”

The Obama Administration can ask the full Eleventh Circuit for a review or he can directly appeal to the Supreme Court. Legal scholar Ilya Shapiro calls the decision a win for the Constitution:

By striking down the individual mandate, the Eleventh Circuit has reaffirmed that the Constitution places limits on the federal government’s power. Congress can do a great many things under modern constitutional jurisprudence, but, as the court concludes, “what Congress cannot do under the Commerce Clause is mandate that individuals enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die.” Indeed, just because Congress can regulate the health insurance industry does not mean it can also require people to buy that industry’s products.

You can read the opinion of the court below: