A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2 to 1 that the requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that Americans buy health insurance – the so-called individual mandate – was unconstitutional. The Court ruled that Congress exceeded its authority by requiring Americans to buy coverage, but ruled that the rest of the health care reform law, including the Medicaid expansion, could remain in effect. The suit was filed by Florida and 25 other states that argued the individual mandate set to become effective in 2014 was unconstitutional because Congress could not force people to buy insurance or face a penalty. The Obama Administration has vigorously defended the provision which is designed to slow the rate of growth in our healthcare system, insure 30 million people who currently do not have health insurance, and stop discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions.
Challenges to the health care reform law are pending in the 4th Circuit. The 6th Circuit ruled previously that the mandate is constitutional, thus setting up a conflict between the circuits that many expect to be settled by the Supreme Court. The federal government has 90 days to ask the entire 11th Circuit to review the 3-panel ruling or appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
The Arc has participated in amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs in several of the cases in support of the constitutionality of the individual mandate, including the 11th Circuit case.