U.S. Sixth Circuit Upholds Affordable Care Act

On Wednesday, June 29, 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati upheld the lower U.S. District Court’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance (known as the “individual insurance mandate”) is constitutional and does not violate the extent of Congress’ authority to regulate commerce under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The primary issue for the court to decide was whether the failure to purchase health insurance (i.e., self-insuring) is a commercial activity in the health care market which has an impact on interstate commerce.  In reaching its decision, the Sixth Circuit court wrote that: “Virtually everyone participates in the market for health care delivery, and they finance these services by either purchasing an insurance policy or by self-insuring.” Thus, the court reasoned, the individual insurance mandate “reveals itself as a regulation on the activity of participating in the national market for health care delivery, and specifically the activity of self-insuring for the cost of these services.”

The same issue is being litigated in separate cases across the country.   More opinions are expected soon from panels of the United States Courts of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., and the Eleventh Circuit, in Atlanta.  Both cases are on appeal from lower court decisions striking down the individual insurance mandate under the Act as unconstitutional and beyond Congress’ power to regulate commerce.

This post was contributed by Charles Dunham.