US court deals blow to Obama health care law

August 12, 2011 by Stephen Collinson

A US court has dealt a new blow to the health care reform law seen as President Barack Obama's proudest domestic achievement, declaring its centerpiece provision unconstitutional.

The Eleventh Circuit appeals court, based in Atlanta, ruled Friday that the law's individual mandate, which requires everyone to own health insurance in America's mostly private system or pay a penalty, exceeded Congress's powers.

But the court ruled that the remainder of the health care law, which extended coverage to an extra 32 million people and was a long-held dream of Democrats, was within the bounds of the Constitution.

About 50 million Americans lack basic health insurance. As a result, hospitals and taxpayers are forced to pay about $43 billion a year to cover the costs of those who are treated but cannot pay.

The ruling increased the likelihood that the US Supreme Court will be called upon to rule on the health care law's constitutionality, possibly as soon as next year, in the heat of a presidential election campaign.

Republicans strongly oppose the law, which they have dubbed "Obamacare," as an infringement on individual liberty, and have sworn to repeal it.

By a 2-1 margin, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a ruling by a lower Florida court that the individual mandate was unconstitutional, in a case brought by 26 state governors and attorneys general, most of them Republican.

But the judges overturned another part of the Florida court's ruling that the entire health care law, passed in 2010, was unconstitutional.

"The individual mandate exceeds Congress's enumerated commerce power and is unconstitutional," wrote Chief Judge Joel Dubina.

"This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives."

The White House said it strongly disagreed with the decision and was confident that the law would ultimately be upheld as constitutional.

It also pointed out that four courts, including the Sixth Court of Appeals, had endorsed the law.

"Those who claim this provision exceeds Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce are incorrect," said Stephanie Cutter, a special assistant to Obama.

She argued that those who chose not to buy insurance in the US private medical system hurt everyone else, because taxpayers end up subsidizing their care when they are taken to emergency rooms.

The White House also justifies the individual mandate by saying that without it, people would wait until they get sick to apply for coverage, which would cause insurance premiums for everyone to rise.

But the ruling cheered Republicans who see the health care law as an unacceptable intrusion by government into individual freedoms.

"Forcing Americans to buy health insurance approved by the government was an unprecedented, unwelcome, and unconstitutional expansion of federal power," said Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate.

Rick Perry, the conservative Texas governor who is launching a presidential campaign this weekend, described the law as an "egregious violation of our constitutional rights."

Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner vowed to repeal "the entire abomination."

Though the health care law is one of Obama's most significant achievements, its controversial nature means he has reaped little gain from a victory that required a huge investment of political capital.

A CBS News poll taken in June found that 37 percent of those asked approved of the health care law, while 48 percent opposed it.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2.3 / 5 (9) Aug 12, 2011
It is definitely unconstitutional.

Since the bill contains no severability clause, when this is found unconstitutional, the whole package must be considered unlawful.
2.8 / 5 (9) Aug 12, 2011
Maybe if the wealthy top 3% (insert 80% of income/90% of accumulated wealth) actually bothered to pay employees, maybe everyone could afford to buy health insurance of their own.

That $13 million CEO could pay for several thousand people's premiums each year.

Peyton's $18 million per yar for 5 years could pay for 50% more even.

We need a millionaire's tax and we need a Federal VAT consumption tax on sports tickets and movie, concert, theatre, and similar tickets, with ALL of the proceeds going to fund a public healthcare system with priority on the lower 1/3rd of income earners.

The millionaire's tax should have at least a baseline rate of 10% HIGHER than the 250k rate.

The VAT should go on things like sports tickets and sports memorabilia (t-shirts, jerzeys, etc,), which is one of the most wasteful forms of entertainment, as I've listed. If people can afford to buy a $100 to $300 sports ticket, then they can afford to pay more taxes. A rate of 10% would be a good start.
not rated yet Aug 12, 2011
Techno1: no one's going to agree to that, your country will turn to shit before that happens.
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 13, 2011
Clickhere: Actually, I am pretty sure most PEOPLE in our country would go for it. The only group that wouldn't are the highest income earners which, while they make up an very small part of the overall population, control the lobbyists that control the politicians that wield the legislative power to levy the very tax that Techno1 is talking about. So, of course they wont. But, I'd certainly like to know what country you're from that is so super awesome it is free from any problems in government, hmm?
3 / 5 (2) Aug 13, 2011
It's ok. I'm sure we can work the health care in like we've done with Vaccines. Where you have the right to refuse them, but then you can't go to school, which then lands you in legal trouble. Yup. Unconstitutional.
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 13, 2011
Techno1: no one's going to agree to that, your country will turn to shit before that happens.

Actually, historically, the U.S. did best financially during the Late 40's through the early 70's, when taxes on the very wealthy were as high as 90%.

Now, by the time you cound licenses, fees, etc, sales tax on food and clothing items, and income taxes, the bottom 90% of wage earners actually PAY a higher average baseline RATE of taxes than the top 10%.

Warren Buffet even admitted that he pays a lower tax rate than poor people, because of all the loopholes, and he was only talking about income tax.

But if you sit around and figure ALL of the taxes: Stamps, sales, state, federal, local income taxes, property tax, inspection stickers, licenses, etc, etc, you will find mean wage earners pay about 35% of their annual income in taxes, while the very rich only end up paying around 15% because they have so many loopholes on things like capital gains.
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 13, 2011
OR because they can show a loss, or little or no income "on paper," but in reality, they doubled or tripled up on their net worth, so they gained a million, or in some cases a billion worth of net worth, but they don't pay any taxes on it, because "on paper" the loopholes allow them to make it look like a loss.

But the point I'm making above, the existing tax structure is actually REGRESSIVE, since licenses, stamps, fees, and sales tax on food and clothing,etc, hit the bottom 90% a lot harder than they hit the top 10%.
2 / 5 (4) Aug 13, 2011
Forcing individuals to purchase a product (or get it free if you can't afford it) isn't much different than "from each according to their ability and to each according to need" with government dictating what everyone gets. The difference between this and communism is that we keep track of the transactions with money.

2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 13, 2011

Would you be willing to support a flat tax?

People yell continually about the rich not paying their fair share because of "loopholes", but ask them to support removal of all loopholes and administer a flat tax and they generally back up really fast.
2.5 / 5 (8) Aug 13, 2011
Maybe if the wealthy top 3% (insert 80% of income/90% of accumulated wealth) actually bothered to pay employees, maybe everyone could afford to buy health insurance of their own.

Maybe if people quit equating the morality of allowing those who earn their money to keep it, with the morality of taking, by force, money from people who've earned it to give it to those who haven't, then people wouldn't be trying to use government to steal from others. After all, if I took your money by force, I'd be prosecuted as a thief. That government is doing it for some, makes it no less moral.
1 / 5 (7) Aug 13, 2011

You naive fool.

The way most wealth is accumulated in this nation is by over-charging and under-paying.

It might be "legal," under the current capitalistic regime, but it is evil.

And no, I would not support a flat tax.

The whole reason the progressive tax was installed is because the wealthy refuse to pay the working class people a decent wage, so the money had to be re-distributed.

Unfortunately, in the past 30 years the republicans have had their way and cut taxes on the wealthy more and more, and provided loopholes more and more.

A flat tax would be even worse than what we have now. It would turn 90% of the people literally into Serfs working for the top 10%.
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 13, 2011
Land of the free... Except for basic health care. The US voters have been brain washed into thinking that free healthcare is a bad thing... Even judges have lost the plot.... Yet an American tourist in a country which does provide free basic health care for it's citizens... Would be expected to provide that tourist with government medical help if needed... Does it mean an American tourist should not be given medical support in another country because it's an unconstitutional ideology?
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 13, 2011
You naive fool

.. said by an ignorant twit with verbal diarrhea.
2.3 / 5 (6) Aug 13, 2011
Typical intentional distortion of the true meaning. "Land of the free" refers to PEOPLE being free, NOT to people being entitled to THINGS for free.
There is nothing free, and the idea that you think so indicates you have no idea how reality works. For you, things magically appear and you are somehow entitled to them.
Well you are NOT entitled. Persons running a business must make a product, and that is how it "appears". There is investment, risk, work, design, sacrifice, innovation, and a lot of other things.

Those of you who think you are entitled to something "free" are in reality trying to ENSLAVE those who produce to the whims of those who do not produce. It is slavery, and you want to use the force of the gun, that is the government, to make people give it to you.

Maybe try this: if you want to do well, take all that time you spend demanding things and crack the books, educate your little minds. It worked for me - I was poor, then I studied hard, and now I am not.
5 / 5 (2) Aug 13, 2011
this isn't science news..
2.3 / 5 (6) Aug 13, 2011

And no, I would not support a flat tax.

Thought you would not support a flat tax. People who want to take are offended when anyone suggests fairness.

You should really stop ranting about loopholes when you won't support eliminating them.
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 13, 2011
Ten principals that Obama cannot understand.

1. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
2. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong
3. You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
4. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
5. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence.
6. You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
7. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
8. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
9. You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
10 You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they will not do for themselves

1942 by William J. H. Boetcker
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 14, 2011

Maybe try this: if you want to do well, take all that time you spend demanding things and crack the books, educate your little minds. It worked for me - I was poor, then I studied hard, and now I am not.

Next time you're on holidays, don't expect to be saved by the locals... He's American... He doesn't want free health care... Leave him there...
1 / 5 (3) Aug 14, 2011

Nothings free
2 / 5 (4) Aug 14, 2011
Taxes by elected governments are not stealing, legally or ethically. They are a reflection of the collective will of the people to redistribute wealth to increase the overall prosperity of the nation, albeit at the expense of some.

Progressive taxation is based on the idea that a person with more money can afford to pay more than a person with less money.

There is a natural tendency for wealth to concentrate. http://www.physor...lth.html

The concentration of wealth adversely affects the ability of the economy to respond favorably to changing conditions because it limits the number of options.

In the same way that networks with a greater number of nodes are more robust, flexible and dynamic, economies with a more heterogeneous distribution of resources are healthier, more resilient, and more productive.

The nation does better collectively when everyone does better individually. The redistribution of wealth is not communistic, it is sound capitalism.
1 / 5 (1) Aug 15, 2011

Nothings free

An Australian citizen in Australia will be given medical help regardless of whether they have a health fund... In the US under conservative rule... If the person does not have a paid health care card... They won't..
The outcome is very simple... If you don't have a healthy population... Or take care of them with basic services... There will be no economic recovery.... Just tyranny from the rich 5% over the rest...
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 15, 2011
An Australian citizen in Australia will be given medical help regardless of whether they have a health fund... In the US under conservative rule... If the person does not have a paid health care card... They won't..

As an American, I can tell you that people get free care every day in America with no prepaid health insurance. You don't know what you are talking about.

Neither is economic recovery predicated on health insurance. Though the massive cost of Obamacare, if it is allowed to continue, will definitely delay any recovery and may even result in a depression.
not rated yet Aug 18, 2011
I've got no problem with "financially able" people NOT being required to have long as the hospitals can refuse to treat them if they opt NOT to have insurance.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.