The recent Court of Appeals ruling on the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA) all but ensures that the U.S. Supreme Court will be the ultimate arbiter of the law’s constitutionality.
A three judge panel of the court, based in Atlanta, found that Congress exceeded its authority when it mandated that all Americans purchase individual health insurance starting in 2014 or face a penalty… The court’s rejection affirmed a portion of District Judge Roger Vinson’s decision in the lawsuit brought by 26 governors and attorneys general (Florida v. HHS). The court did, however, find the individual mandate to be severable from the rest of the law – declaring that the remaining provisions are “legally operative.” Vinson had originally concluded that the mandate was integral to the rest of the legislation, and therefore had invalidated the entire act.
The 2-1 opinion was written by Judges Joel Dubina (a George H.W. Bush appointee) and Frank Hull (a Clinton appointee). Not only does it mark the first time that a judge appointed by a Democrat has voted to strike down the mandate, but last week’s decision is in direct conflict with a Cincinnati appellate court, which upheld the controversial measure back in June. Meanwhile, a third federal appeals panel – the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (Richmond, VA) – has yet to rule on a separate challenge brought by the state of Virginia.
The federal government now has 90 days to ask for a full 11th Circuit review of the three-judge ruling or it could choose a direct appeal to the high court. Many see it likely that the Supreme Court will take up the healthcare law during its upcoming fall term that begins in October, with a ruling possible by the summer of 2012 (pre-presidential election).
This is what we’ve all been waiting for!