National Consumers League

A look at the court cases against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act


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By Benjamin Judge, NCL Public Policy Intern Ever since President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, there have been several challenges to key portions of the act in district courts across the country. Some of these challenges include, but are not limited to, the individual mandate for each American to have a minimum amount of health insurance, federal funding going towards abortion, and according to one case, allowing soldiers to be quartered in our homes. Challenges to the law There have been two major cases in which judges have ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional.  In the case of Commonwealth ofVirginia vs. Sebelius, Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled that the mandate was unconstitutional on the grounds that Congress was exceeding its power under the Commerce Clause. Virginia argues that requiring people to buy health insurance is not regulating commerce, but rather, forcing commerce on consumers. The federal government is currently appealing this case and there was a hearing on May 10, 2011 in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The other case in which the individual mandate was deemed unconstitutional was State ofFlorida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where Judge Roger Vinson deemed that the mandate is unconstitutional, and since it cannot be separated from the law, then the entire law is void.  The ruling served as an injunction of the laws implementation.  Judge Vinson went on to say that the case should move on to the Supreme Court where a final decision on the law will be made.  The government appealed and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held a hearing for the case on June 8, 2011. Dubious claims There have also been some court cases that have made very interesting claims. In U.S. Citizens Association v. Obama the plaintiffs claim that, besides the individual mandate being unconstitutional, they are argue that the law violates the third (yes, the amendment regarding quartering of soldiers), fourth, fifth, and ninth amendment by forcing people to divulge private medical information. Although there has not yet been a ruling on this case, the most recent development is that the government’s Motion to Dismiss was denied on November 23, 2010. Another interesting court case is Independent American Party of Nevada et al v. Obama et al. In this class action lawsuit, the plaintiffs want an injunction against the reform.  The plaintiffs claim that the law violates almost every privacy clause of the Constitution, for example due process and free exercise of religion (a full list can be found here on page three). The plaintiffs also claim that the healthcare law breaks the Thirteenth amendment because “it involuntarily creates a debt and coerces Plaintiffs herein to work off the debt by threat of legal sanction (Source).” The case is currently stalled because the government has not responded to the complaint of the Plaintiffs. There is a very good chance that some of these cases will spend several more years in the lower courts before eventually going to Supreme Court.  All of the information on the court cases comes from http://www.healthcarelawsuits.org, there are also additional cases if you are interested in reading about more cases.