This afternoon, a three judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the so-called “individual mandate” (the Obama health care reform law’s requirement that virtually all Americans purchase health insurance or face penalties) is unconstitutional. The decision in Florida et al v. Dept. of Health & Human Services et al, a suit brought by 26 states, marks the first time that a judge appointed by a democrat has voted to strike down the mandate. The panel ruled that the individual mandate portion of the law exceeds Congress’ power under the commerce clause by “mandating 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.” However, the appellate court did not go as far as the district court that originally heard the case, which found the entire health care overhaul to be unconstitutional.
The 6th Circuit recently upheld the individual mandate in a similar suit. (See April 2011 Fraser Trebilcock Newsletter on the same topic). Given these split decisions and the importance of the issue, the suit is a strong candidate for review by the United States Supreme Court in its next term.
This decision adds confusion to the already uncertain health care environment, while employers, individuals, and health care providers face impending deadlines under these extensive new laws. If you would like any assistance in sorting out these complicated issues, please contact an attorney in Fraser Trebilcock’s Health Care Practice Group.