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Federal Appeals Court OKs Individual Mandate

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, June 30, 2011

In a legal victory for the Obama administration, a federal appellate court has upheld a lower court finding that Congress has the power to require that individuals purchase healthcare insurance.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati has affirmed the ruling by the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit that "the minimum coverage provision is a valid exercise of legislative power by Congress under the Commerce Clause."

The court case stems from a Michigan lawsuit challenging the individual mandate section of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The challenge was filed by four Michigan residents and the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor.

The plaintiffs had asked the district court to declare that Congress lacked authority to pass the minimum coverage provision and that the penalty for not purchasing healthcare coverage be declared an unconstitutional tax. The district denied plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and they appealed.

The appeal was argued on June 1, 2011. In the 64-page ruling released Wednesday the Appeals Court rules that Congress has the authority to require health insurance and with that ruling it declines to address whether the penalty is a permissible tax.

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