May 2011

PPACA in the Federal Courts: Constitutional Within the Commerce Clause?

1 min

Several lawsuits have challenged the constitutionality of the healthcare reform legislation enacted by the Congress and signed into law by President Obama in March, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (“PPACA”), also known as the “Accountable Care Act” or “ACA.”  Most of the suits focus on a “requirement” in PPACA now called the “Individual Mandate” (the “Mandate”).  The Mandate will require most everyone to buy “minimum essential coverage” health insurance by 2014 or incur a penalty to be paid with one’s Federal income tax return.

This white paper sketches four cases in three Federal judicial circuits where judges have ruled on the Mandate and/or PPACA.  On April 25, the Supreme Court denied a petition to short-cut one of the appeals directly to that Court, so the process will wend its way through the Circuit Courts of Appeal over the next several months.  In this classic American constitutional drama, one can follow the interplay of policy, economics, law, geography and politics (note, e.g., the presidential appointments of the judges).  The white paper also summarizes the arguments over the “Commerce Clause” of the Constitution at the heart of this constitutional debate.

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