A three-judge panel from the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has ruled that the Obama administration’s plan to require citizens to purchase health insurance did not violate the Constitution.  This is the first such opinion and is considered a win for the Obama administration.

The Thomas More Law Center, based in Ann Arbor, had sued on behalf of itself and its members claiming that the requirement in the 2010 health care law for individuals to either purchase health insurance or to pay a penalty was unconstitutional.  The judge in the Eastern District of Michigan disagreed, holding that the statute was constitutional.  The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower court’s decision.  There are currently two other similar lawsuits pending in other  parts of the country.

Plaintiffs argued that Congress lacked authority to require citizens to purchase health insurance and that the penalty for not purchasing health insurance constituted an unconstitutional tax.    But on appeal, the Court found that Congress could rationally believe that requiring the purchase of health insurance was an economic activity that had substantial effects on interstate commerce, and that the provision requiring either purchase or a penalty was essential to the larger approach to reforming the health care and health insurance markets.

Combined with the other two opinions pending from the 4th Circuit and the 11th Circuit, it is widely expected that the Supreme Court will take up one or more of the decisions for review, potentially as early as the Supreme Court’s next term which commences in October.  Accordingly, the 6th Circuit’s opinion is not likely to be the final say in the matter.

As the constitutionality of the health care law effects every person in the United States, the arguments by the litigants and ultimately the decision of the Supreme Court have an important impact on the lives of Americans.  If you have any questions about this article, or legal concerns about any health care issue at all, please see our Health Care web page for contact information of our Department’s attorneys.

To learn more, contact our Health Care Department Chair Jonathan Raven at jraven@fraserlawfirm.com or 517.377.0816. Jonathan has guided business and health care leaders in strategically planning, implementing, and adapting to often unpredictable and rapidly changing environments.

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