The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the District Court decision by Judge Reed O’Connor that the Affordable Care Act (ACA or ObamaCare) individual mandate to buy health insurance is unconstitutional.
In its opening summary, the Court quotes the perspective that the Act “has deprived patients nationwide of a competitive market for affordable high-deductible health insurance,” leaving “patients with no alternative to . . . skyrocketing premiums,” from the amicus brief filed by Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) and Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom (CCHF). The decision is not based on this public-policy argument, which is outside the Court’s purview, but rather on questions of law.
The Court held that the plaintiffs have standing to bring this challenge: “the individual mandate injures both the individual plaintiffs, by requiring them to buy insurance that they do not want, and the state plaintiffs, by increasing their costs of complying with the reporting requirements that accompany the individual mandate.” It also held that “the individual mandate is unconstitutional because it can no longer be read as a tax, and there is no other constitutional provision that justifies this exercise of congressional power.”
The Court remanded the question of the constitutionality of the rest of the ACA to the district court for further consideration of whether the individual mandate is severable.
Patrice A. Harris, president of the American Medical Association (AMA), which filed an amicus brief supporting ACA, writes: “Today’s decision leaves important health insurance protections shrouded in uncertainty despite overwhelming public support.”
AAPS has held from the outset that ACA is unconstitutional because there is no power granted to the federal government to provide medical care or health insurance to all Americans, or to interfere in the state function of regulating insurance by imposing “minimum essential benefits.”
“When Congress ‘gives’ those ‘popular protections’ such as premium subsidies, guaranteed issue, and coverage mandates, it must first ‘take’ from others to pay for them,” states AAPS executive director Jane M. Orient. “The individual/mandate tax was one method. Other taxes and rules that outlaw affordable coverage are other methods. Is this forcible redistribution of resources constitutional?”
“The proper action by the district court,” she added, “would be to maintain its earlier ruling that the mandate is unseverable and thus the entire law is invalid.”
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is a national organization representing physicians in all specialties since 1943.