Supreme Court the Next Legal Stop for Health Reform

Three federal courts of appeals have issued different rulings on the constitutionality of all or parts of the Affordable Care Act. Organizations supporting or opposing the various rulings, including the Obama Administration, in recent days have petitioned the Supreme Court to take up the issue, with a ruling expected by early summer of 2012.

In a Health Affairs blog, Timothy Jost, a professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, lays out how each appeals court decided various issues of the reform law, and the arguments being made by Supreme Court petitioners.

But first, here's a quick primer. Three Federal District Courts ruled the individual mandate as constitutional while two other district courts ruled it unconstitutional, and the issues next went to the appeals courts:

* Judge Norman Moon of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in a challenge from Liberty University, ruled the law constitutional. Judge Henry Hudson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in a challenge from the State of Virginia, ruled the individual mandate was unconstitutional but upheld the rest of the Act. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., refused to consider the merits of either lawsuit, saying plaintiffs lacked legal standing.

* U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson in Florida had ruled the entire law unconstitutional. In declaring the individual mandate unconstitutional, he also ruled, with reluctance, that the mandate was not severable from the rest of the law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, on a 2-1 vote, ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional but said rest of the law is constitutional.

* A U.S. District Court ruling in Michigan found the individual mandate to be constitutional. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati affirmed the district court ruling. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush appointed the three judges in Cincinnati.


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