Tuesday, September 13, 2011

BREAKING: M.D.Pa. Rules "Obamacare" Unconstitutional

The latest opinion regarding the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka the "Health Care Act," aka "Obamacare") came down today. In Goudy-Bachman v. U.S. Dept. HHS (opinion here), Judge Conner ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional.

I haven't been doing a very good job of covering all of the decisions. Needless to say, a number of judges have looked at this thing and reached a variety of conclusions (it is/is not a tax, the mandate does/does not exceed the bounds of the interstate commerce clause, and whether various parties have standing). I'm blogging about this opinion for two reasons:

1. It's in my "home district," the Middle District of Pennsylvania; and
2. It means there is a good shot the Third Circuit (my "home circuit") will take a swing at this thing.

And, of course, the more circuits that weigh in, the better the chance of SCOTUS settling the matter once and for all.

Judge Conner kindly provided a succinct summary at the start of the opinion:
[T]his case concerns the precise parameters of Congress’s enumerated authority under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. Specifically, the issue is whether Congress can invoke its Commerce Clause power to compel individuals to buy insurance as a condition of lawful citizenship or residency. The court concludes that it cannot. The power to regulate interstate commerce does not subsume the power to dictate a lifetime financial commitment to health insurance coverage. Without judicially enforceable limits, the constitutional blessing of the minimum coverage provision . . . would effectively sanction Congress’s exercise of police power under the auspices of the Commerce Clause, jeopardizing the integrity of our dual sovereignty structure.
Obviously, this matter is far from over...

Photo: I took that photograph of the Lackawanna County (state) Courthouse with the Middle District of Pennsylvania Courthouse Headquarters (federal) in the background. Perfect picture for this case - deciding the limits of federal power - don't you think?

Posted by Philip Miles, an attorney with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania in the firm's civil litigation and labor and employment law practice groups.