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Healthcare reform legal update

September 29, 2011
by Mark Hagland, Editor-in-Chief, Healthcare Informatics
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Obama administration asks the Supreme Court to hear its appeal

On Sep. 28, the Obama administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal of an August 12 ruling by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit (Atlanta), which had determined that the individual health insurance mandate embedded in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional.

According to The New York Times, the U.S. Department of Justice determined on Sep. 26 that it would not seek review from the full 11th Circuit; instead, in a surprise move, the Justice Department determined that it would petition the nation’s highest court, in a motion that virtually ensures that the Supreme Court will agree to hear one or more cases involving challenges to the law, with arguments by the spring of 2012 and a decision by June. As a result, the Supreme Court could make a decision on the constitutionality of the law in the middle of the 2012 presidential and congressional election campaign season, though the high court might not necessarily make a sweeping ruling at that time.

The Times quoted a Justice Department statement that read, “The department has consistently and successfully defended this law in several courts of appeals, and only the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled it unconstitutional,” with the “it” referring to the individual mandate to purchase health insurance. “We believe the question is appropriate for review by the Supreme Court,” the statement added.

The 11th Circuit ruling is the only appeals court ruling so far in which the decision went against the Obama administration; in one of the two other rulings this summer, the 6th Circuit Court (Cincinnati) had ruled the entire Affordable Care Act constitutional, while the 4th Circuit Court (Richmond, Va.) had ruled that the plaintiffs in that case lacked the legal standing to bring their motions before that court.

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