The Obama Administration faced another appeals court challenge to the new health care law today. A three-judge panel from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta heard an oral argument in the case of Florida versus the Department of Health and Human Services.
This latest challenge to the law is brought by 26 states who have banded together in opposition to the new law. The states’ argument is that Congress has exceeded its authority and is infringing on states' rights.
During oral arguments, Chief Judge Joel Dubina asked acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, “If we uphold the individual mandate, are there any limits” to Congress' power under the Commerce Clause, which regulates interstate commerce. Katyal said the individual mandate enforced under the Commerce Clause is justified because the uninsured are shifting billions of dollars of health care costs to the insured and the government, thus contributing "part and parcel" to the national economy.
Arguing the case on behalf of the states, former Solicitor General under President George W. Bush, Paul Clement said the Commerce Clause is meant to "regulate" commerce. He told the judges the health care law does not regulate, but uses penalties to "compel" people to purchase health insurance.
Florida District Judge Roger Vinson ruled in favor of the states' position ruling the entire law void because the individual insurance mandate is unconstitutional and "inextricably linked" to the entire law. Currently two other circuit courts - the Fourth and the Sixth - have heard arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act. Those courts have not yet issued a ruling in those cases.