651 F.3d 529 (6th Cir. 2011), 10-2388, Thomas More Law Center v. Obama
|Citation:||651 F.3d 529|
|Opinion Judge:||BOYCE F. MARTIN, JR., Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||THOMAS MORE LAW CENTER; Jann DeMars; John Ceci; Steven Hyder; Salina Hyder, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Barack Hussein OBAMA, in his official capacity as President of the United States; Kathleen Sebelius, in her official capacity as Secretary, United States Department of Health and Human Services; Eric H. Holder, Jr., in his official capacity as Atto|
|Attorney:||Robert J. Muise, Thomas More Law Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan, for Appellants. Neal Kumar Katyal, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for Appellees. Robert J. Muise, Thomas More Law Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan, David Yerushalmi, Law Offices of David Yerushalmi, P.C., Chandler, A...|
|Judge Panel:||Before: MARTIN and SUTTON, Circuit Judges; GRAHAM, District Judge. [*] MARTIN, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which SUTTON, J., and GRAHAM, D.J., concurred as to Parts I (background) and II (subject matter jurisdiction) and in which SUTTON, J., concurred in the judgment. SUTTON, J. (p...|
|Case Date:||June 29, 2011|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit|
Argued: June 1, 2011.
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This is an appeal from the district court's determination that the minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act 1 is constitutionally sound. Among the Act's many changes to the national markets in health care delivery and health insurance, the minimum coverage provision requires all applicable individuals to maintain minimum essential health insurance coverage or to pay a penalty. 26 U.S.C. § 5000A.
Plaintiffs include Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm, and four individuals: Jann DeMars, John Ceci, Steven Hyder, and Salina Hyder. 2 The individual plaintiffs are United States citizens, Michigan residents, and federal taxpayers who claim that the minimum coverage provision unconstitutionally compels them to purchase health insurance. Thomas More does not assert any injury to itself as an organization or employer, but rather objects to the provision on behalf of its members.
Plaintiffs sought a declaration that Congress lacked authority under the Commerce Clause to pass the minimum coverage provision, and alternatively a declaration that the penalty is an unconstitutional tax. The district court held that the minimum coverage provision falls within Congress's authority under the Commerce Clause for two principal reasons: (1) the provision regulates economic decisions regarding how to pay for health care that have substantial effects on the interstate health care market; and (2) the provision is essential to the Act's larger regulation of the interstate market for health insurance. Because the district court found the provision to be authorized by the Commerce Clause, it declined to address whether it was a permissible tax under the General Welfare Clause. The district court denied plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, and they appeal.
This opinion is divided into several parts. First, it provides background on the Affordable Care Act and the minimum coverage provision. Second, it addresses this Court's jurisdiction. Third, it considers whether the provision is authorized by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Fourth, it declines to address whether the provision is authorized by the General Welfare Clause. We find that the minimum coverage provision is a valid exercise of legislative power by Congress under the Commerce Clause and therefore AFFIRM the decision of the district court.
Congress found that the minimum coverage provision is an essential cog in the Affordable Care Act's comprehensive scheme to reform the national markets in health care delivery and health insurance. The Act contains five essential components designed to improve access to the health care and health insurance markets, reduce the escalating costs of health care, and minimize cost-shifting. First, the Act builds upon the existing nationwide system of employer-based health insurance. It establishes tax incentives for small businesses to purchase health insurance for their employees, 26 U.S.C. § 45R, and requires certain large employers to offer health insurance to their employees, id. § 4980H. Second, the Act provides for the creation of state-operated " health benefit exchanges." These exchanges allow individuals and small businesses to leverage their collective buying power to obtain price-competitive health insurance. 42 U.S.C. § 18031. Third, the Act expands federal programs to assist the poor with obtaining health insurance. For eligible individuals who purchase insurance through an exchange, the Act offers federal tax credits for payment of health insurance premiums, 26 U.S.C. § 36B, and authorizes federal payments to help cover out-of-pocket expenses, 42 U.S.C. § 18071. The Act also expands eligibility for Medicaid. Id. § 1396a(a)(10)(A)(i)(VIII). Fourth, the Act bars certain practices in the insurance industry that have prevented individuals from obtaining and maintaining health insurance. The guaranteed issue requirement bars insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals with preexisting conditions, id. §§ 300gg-1(a), 300gg-3(a), and the community rating requirement prohibits insurance companies from charging higher rates to individuals based on their medical history, id. § 300gg.
Finally, the Act's " Requirement to Maintain Minimum Essential Coverage," 26 U.S.C. § 5000A, takes effect in 2014 and requires every " applicable individual" to obtain " minimum essential coverage" for each month. The Act directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services in coordination with the Secretary of the
Treasury to define the required essential health benefits, which must include at least ten general categories of services. 42 U.S.C. § 18022(b)(1).
Applicable individuals who fail to obtain minimum essential coverage must include with their annual federal tax payment a " shared responsibility payment," which is a " penalty" calculated based on household income. 26 U.S.C. § 5000A(b), (c). The Act exempts from its penalty provision certain individuals, including those deemed to suffer a hardship with respect to their capability to obtain coverage. Id. § 5000A(e).
A number of Congressional findings accompany the minimum coverage requirement. Congress determined that " the Federal Government has a significant role in regulating health insurance," and " [t]he requirement is an essential part of this larger regulation of economic activity." 42 U.S.C. § 18091(a)(2)(H). Congress found that without the minimum coverage provision, other provisions in the Act, in particular the guaranteed issue and community rating requirements, would increase the incentives for individuals to " wait to purchase health insurance until they needed care." Id. § 18091(a)(2)(I). This would exacerbate the current problems in the markets for health care delivery and health insurance. See id. Conversely, Congress found that " [b]y significantly reducing the number of the uninsured, the [minimum coverage] requirement, together with the other provisions of this Act, will lower health insurance premiums." Id. § 18091(a)(2)(F). Congress concluded that the minimum coverage provision " is essential to creating effective health insurance markets in which improved health insurance products that are guaranteed issue and do not exclude coverage of pre-existing conditions can be sold." Id. § 18091(a)(2)(I).
II. DOES THIS COURT HAVE JURISDICTION OVER PLAINTIFFS' CLAIM?
A. Standing and Ripeness
Our first duty is to determine whether this is a " case or controversy" within the meaning of Article III of the Constitution such that we have judicial power to review this issue. Nat'l Rifle Ass'n of Am. v. Magaw, 132 F.3d 272, 279 (6th Cir.1997). " We review issues of justiciability pursuant to Article III de novo. " Id. at 278. Standing requires plaintiffs to demonstrate " actual present harm or a significant possibility of future harm." Id. at 279. " [T]he presence of one party with standing is sufficient to...
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