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6th Circuit says Obamacare is Constitutional

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 30, 2011 10:03 AM

Obamacare news: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has made a decision in the Obamacare lawsuit, saying that Obamacare is constitutional.

The lawsuit, Thomas More Law Center v. Obama, challenged the concept of the individual mandate and argued that the individual mandate violated the Commerce Clause.

Rewind: The individual mandate, as discussed on this blog and FindLaw's Fourth Circuit Blog, is the rule that states that Americans must purchase a minimum level of health insurance, or else, be penalized with a monetary penalty.

Now, Obamacare opponents argued that Congress lacked authority under the Commerce Clause to pass the minimum coverage mandate and that the penalty is an unconstitutional penalty.

The case was heard in the district court, where the court upheld the law and said that the minimum coverage provision falls within the congressional authority under the Commerce Clause, for the reasons that the provision regulates economic decisions which would have an effect on the interstate health care market and because the provision is essential to the Act's overall regulation of the interstate market for health insurance.

The district court never addressed the issue of whether or not the penalty was a "tax," permissible under the General Welfare Clause.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 panel opinion, held that the minimum coverage provision, a.k.a. the individual mandate, was a legitimate exercise of congressional authority under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. However, the Court of Appeals, like the court below it, did not address whether or not the provision was an authorized tax under the General Welfare.

The Court of Appeals held that the mandate regulated an activity that was "decidedly economic."

It found that the mandate was facially constitutional for two reasons: (1) "The provision regulates economic activity that Congress had a rational basis to believe has substantial effects on interstate commerce" and (2) "Congress had a rational basis to believe that the provision was essential to its larger economic scheme reforming the interstate markets in health care and health insurance."

The healthcare lawsuit is still pending before several other federal circuits and will likely eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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