Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled Obamacare’s individual mandate that Americans carry health insurance was unconstitutional. This 2-1 ruling directly conflicts with an earlier appellate ruling in June (Sixth Circuit decision), only increasing the likelihood that the U.S. Supreme Court will offer a final verdict at some point.
The ruling is in line with two lower courts that agreed Congress was overreaching its authority by requiring Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty. In the joint opinion written by Judge Joel Dubina and Judge Frank Hull, the justices believed while Congress had broad power to deal with the uninsured, Congress could not 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.”
This decision is the first time a Democratic-appointed judge, Judge Hull, found part of Obamacare unconstitutional. Judge Hull was a Bill Clinton appointee while Judge Dubina was a George H.W. Bush appointee.
North Carolina’s Republican leadership wrote an amicus brief supporting the 26 states’ position that Obamacare was unconstitutional and infringed on states’ rights.
This decision affirmed part of U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson’s ruling, agreeing that the individual mandate was unconstitutional. However, unlike Judge Vinson’s determination that the entire law must be voided, the appellate court claimed other provisions of Obamacare could remain “legally operative.”
If such an outcome is allowed, the public policy implications could be devastating. One stand-alone clause requires insurers to accept all prospective customers, regardless of health status, encouraging people to wait until they are sick to acquire coverage. As a result, the cost of healthcare is likely to increase for both the healthy and the sick.
North Carolinians and our legislators must continue to seek out improvements to our healthcare system that also respect the individual choice and rights of citizens. As the lawsuit decisions begin to make clear, Obamacare is not part of the solution but rather, part of the problem.