State of Texas v. United States, 121819 FED5, 19-10011
|Opinion Judge:||JENNIFER WALKER ELROD, CIRCUIT JUDGE|
|Party Name:||STATE OF TEXAS; STATE OF ALABAMA; STATE OF ARIZONA; STATE OF FLORIDA; STATE OF GEORGIA; STATE OF INDIANA; STATE OF KANSAS; STATE OF LOUISIANA; STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, by and through Governor Phil Bryant; STATE OF MISSOURI; STATE OF NEBRASKA; STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA; STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA; STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA; STATE OF TENNESSEE; STATE OF UTAH; ...|
|Judge Panel:||Before KING, ELROD, and ENGELHARDT, Circuit Judges. KING, Circuit Judge, dissenting:|
|Case Date:||December 18, 2019|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit|
Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas
Before KING, ELROD, and ENGELHARDT, Circuit Judges.
JENNIFER WALKER ELROD, CIRCUIT JUDGE
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the Act or ACA) is a monumental piece of healthcare legislation that regulates a huge swath of the nation's economy and affects the healthcare decisions of millions of Americans. The law has been a focal point of our country's political debate since it was passed nearly a decade ago. Some say that the Act is a much-needed solution to the problem of increasing healthcare costs and lack of healthcare availability. Many of the amici in this case, for example, argue that the law has extensively benefitted everyone from children to senior citizens to local governments to small businesses. Others say that the Act is a costly exercise in burdensome governmental regulation that deprives people of economic liberty. Amici of this perspective argue, for example, 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." Association of American Physicians & Surgeons Amicus Br. at 15.
None of these policy issues are before the court. And for good reason- the courts are not institutionally equipped to address them. These issues are far better left to the other two branches of government. The questions before the court are far narrower: questions of law, not of policy. Those questions are: First, is there a live case or controversy before us even though the federal defendants have conceded many aspects of the dispute; and, relatedly, do the intervenor-defendant states and the U.S. House of Representatives have standing to appeal? Second, do the plaintiffs have standing? Third, if they do, is the individual mandate unconstitutional? Fourth, if it is, how much of the rest of the Act is inseverable from the individual mandate?
We answer those questions as follows: First, there is a live case or controversy because the intervenor-defendant states have standing to appeal and, even if they did not, there remains a live case or controversy between the plaintiffs and the federal defendants. Second, the plaintiffs have Article III standing to bring this challenge to the ACA; 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. Third, 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. Fourth, on the severability question, we remand to the district court to provide additional analysis of the provisions of the ACA as they currently exist.
On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the ACA into law. See Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (2010). The Act sought to "increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance and decrease the cost of health care" through several key reforms. See Nat'l Fed'n of Indep. Bus. v. Sebelius (NFIB), 567 U.S. 519, 538 (2012).
Some of those reforms implemented new consumer protections, aiming primarily to protect people with preexisting conditions. For example, the law prohibits insurers from refusing to cover preexisting conditions. 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-3. The "guaranteed-issue requirement" forbids insurers from turning customers away because of their health. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 300gg, 300gg-1. The "community-rating requirement" keeps insurers from charging people more because of their preexisting health issues. 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-4.1 The law also requires insurers to provide coverage for certain types of care, including women's and children's preventative care. 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-13(a)(3)-(4).2
Other reforms sought to lower the cost of health insurance by using both policy "carrots" and "sticks."3 On the stick side, the individual mandate- which plaintiffs challenge in the instant case-requires individuals to "maintain [health insurance] coverage." 26 U.S.C. § 5000A(a). If individuals do not maintain this coverage, they must make a payment to the IRS called a "shared responsibility payment."4 Id.; see also King v. Burwell, 135 S.Ct. 2480, 2486 (2015).
The individual mandate was designed to lower insurance premiums by broadening the insurance pool. See 42 U.S.C. § 18091(2)(J) ("By significantly increasing . . . the size of purchasing pools, . . . the [individual mandate] will significantly . . . lower health insurance premiums."). When the young and healthy must buy insurance, the insurance pool faces less risk, which, at least in theory, leads to lower premiums for everyone. See 42 U.S.C. § 18091(2)(I) (positing that the individual mandate will "broaden the health insurance risk pool to include healthy individuals, which will lower health insurance premiums"). The individual mandate thus serves as a counterweight to the ACA's protections for preexisting conditions, which push riskier, costlier individuals into the insurance pool. Under the protections for consumers with preexisting conditions, if there were no individual mandate, there would arguably be an "adverse selection" problem: "many individuals would," in theory, "wait to purchase health insurance until they needed care." Id.5
The Act also sought to lower insurance costs for some consumers through policy "carrots," providing tax credits to offset the cost of insurance to those with incomes under 400 percent of the federal poverty line. See 26 U.S.C. § 36B; 42 U.S.C. §§ 18081, 18082. The Act also created government-run, taxpayer-funded health insurance marketplaces-known as "Exchanges"- which allow customers "to compare and purchase insurance plans." King, 135 S.Ct. at 2485; see also 42 U.S.C. § 18031. Opponents of the law argue that the law has led to unintended subsidies to keep plans afloat and insurance companies in the black. Texas points in its brief, for example, to a Congressional Budget Office study estimating that federal outlays for health insurance subsidies and related spending will rise by about 60 percent over the next ten years, from $58 billion in 2018 to $91 billion by 2028. CBO, The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2018 to 2028 at 51 (April 2018), available at https://tinyurl.com/CBOBudgetEconOutlook-2018-2028; State Plaintiffs' Br. at 13-14.
The ACA also enlarged the class of people eligible for Medicaid to include childless adults with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line. 42 U.S.C. §§ 1396a(a)(10)(A)(i)(VII), 1396a(e)(14)(I)(i); NFIB, 567 U.S. at 541-42. The ACA originally required each state to expand its Medicaid program or risk losing "all of its federal Medicaid funds." NFIB, 567 U.S. at 542. In NFIB, however, the Supreme Court held that this exceeded Congress' powers under the Spending Clause. Id. at 585 (plurality opinion). But the Court allowed those states that wanted to accept Medicaid expansion funds to do so. See id. at 585-86 (plurality opinion); id. at 645-46 (Ginsburg, J., concurring in part, concurring in the judgment in part, and dissenting in part). As a result, the states that have not participated in the expansion now subsidize, through their general tax dollars, the states that have participated in expansion.
Since the Act was passed, its opponents have attempted to attack it both through congressional amendment and through litigation. Between 2010 and 2016, Congress considered several bills to repeal, defund, delay, or amend the ACA. See Intervenor-Defendant States' Br. at 10. Except for a few modest changes, these efforts were closely fought but ultimately failed. Intervenor-Defendant States' Br. at 10-11. In 2017, the shift in presidential administrations reinvigorated opposition to the law, but many of these later legislative efforts failed as well. In March 2017, House leaders pulled a bill that would have repealed many of the ACA's essential provisions. In July 2017, the Senate voted on three separate bills that similarly would have repealed major provisions of the Act, but each vote failed.6 Finally, in September 2017, several Senators introduced another bill that would have repealed some of the ACA's most significant provisions, but Senate leaders ultimately chose not to bring it to the floor for a vote. Intervenor-Defendant States' Br. at 11.
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