"There are two Affordable Care Acts. There's the legislation passed by Congress in 2009, and then there's the mythical Affordable Care Act – the perfidious 'government takeover' decried and demagogued by so many conservatives (and quite a few liberals). The former is quite popular, the latter gets decidedly mixed reviews."
Audio - Supreme Court Oral Argument on Obamacare
"Amid intense public interest, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which became effective March 23, 2010. The ACA sought to address the fact that millions of Americans had no health insurance, yet actively participated in the health care market, consuming health care services for which they did not pay.
The ACA contained a minimum coverage provision by amending the tax code and providing an individual mandate, stipulating that by 2014, non-exempt individuals who failed to purchase and maintain a minimum level of health insurance must pay a tax penalty. The ACA also contained an expansion of Medicaid, which states had to accept in order to receive Federal funds for Medicaid, and an employer mandate to obtain health coverage for employees.
Shortly after Congress passed the ACA, Florida and 12 other states brought actions in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida seeking a declaration that the ACA was unconstitutional on several grounds. These states were subsequently joined by 13 additional states, the National Federation of Independent businesses, and individual plaintiffs Kaj Ahburg and Mary Brown.
The plaintiffs argued that: (1) the individual mandate exceeded Congress' enumerated powers under the Commerce Clause; (2) the Medicaid expansions were unconstitutionally coercive; and (3) the employer mandate impermissibly interfered with state sovereignty.
The District Court first addressed whether the plaintiffs had standing to bring the lawsuit. It determined that Brown had standing to challenge the minimum coverage provision because she did not have health insurance and had to make financial arrangements to ensure compliance with the provision, which would go into effect in 2014. The court further determined that Idaho and Utah had standing because each state had enacted a statute purporting to exempt their residents from the minimum coverage provision.
The court also concluded that the Anti-Injunction Act did not bar the suit.
The District Court then addressed the constitutional questions. It ruled that the individual mandate provision was not a valid exercise of Congress' commerce or taxing powers. The court held the entire act invalid because the mandate could not be severed from any other provision. The court dismissed the states' challenge to the employer mandates and granted judgment to the federal government on the Medicaid expansions, finding insufficient support for the contention that the spending legislation was unconstitutionally coercive.
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed 2-to-1 the District Court's holdings as to the Medicaid expansions and the individual mandate. But it also reversed the District Court, holding that the individual mandate could be severed without invalidating the remainder of the ACA.
1. Does the Commerce Clause (Article I Section 8 Clause 3 of the Constitution) grant Congress the power to require individuals to maintain a minimum level of health insurance or pay a tax penalty?
2. Did Congress exceed its enumerated powers and violate principles of federalism when it pressured States into accepting conditions that Congress could not impose directly by threatening to withhold all federal funding under Medicaid, the single largest grant-in-aid program?
3. Is the suit brought by respondents to challenge the minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act barred by the Anti-Injunction Act, 2 U.S.C. 7421(a)?
4. Is the individual mandate severable from the ACA?"
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