August 12, 2011
LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today praised a ruling in Michigan's lawsuit against portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act of 2010, commonly known as "Obamacare." In the decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled the controversial "individual mandate" to be unconstitutional. Schuette's lawsuit, joined by 25 other states and the NFIB, questioned the authority of the federal government under the Commerce Clause to force citizens to purchase health insurance.
"This is a huge victory in the fight to protect the freedom of American citizens from the long arm of the federal government," said Schuette. "Today, with this ruling, the voices of the Framers of the Constitution live on. Their vision of a limited government that provides security from federal intrusion into individual lives has been validated once again."
In a written ruling issued today, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit found the individual mandate unconstitutional on the grounds it exceeds Congress' power under the Commerce Clause. The ruling declared:
"... we conclude that the individual mandate contained in the Act exceeds Congress's enumerated commerce power... Congress may regulate commercial actors. It may forbid certain commercial activity. It may enact hundreds of new laws and federally-funded programs, as it has elected to do in this massive 975-page Act. But 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."
Today's ruling partially upheld a favorable ruling issued January 31, 2011 by U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson. In that decision, Judge Vinson struck down the law in its entirety, declaring that Congress and President Obama did not have the authority to force citizens to buy a product when they were not participating in the marketplace. The ruling issued today by the Court of Appeals agreed that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, but asserted that the rest of the law may stand.
Schuette's lawsuit questions the authority of the federal government under the Commerce Clause to force citizens to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty and challenges the vast expansion of the Medicaid program in violation of state sovereignty under the 10th Amendment. Michigan is joined by twenty states and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in the healthcare lawsuit filed in the United States Northern District Court of Florida.
Michigan's challenge to the healthcare law is separate from the lawsuit filed by Virginia, which has already earned a favorable ruling at the district court level. The Virginia case currently awaits a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. Like Michigan's case, the Virginia case questions the federal government's authority to force Americans to purchase a product as the price of citizenship.
On December 13, 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson issued a ruling in favor of Virginia's challenge to federal health care legislation. Judge Hudson struck down the individual mandate, noting in his opinion that the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision "exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power" (p. 38). Judge Hudson also rejected the Obama administration's arguments regarding congressional authority under the Commerce Clause.