Thomas More Law Ctr. v. Obama

Decision Date07 October 2010
Docket NumberCase No. 10-CV-11156.
Citation720 F.Supp.2d 882
PartiesTHOMAS MORE LAW CENTER, Jann DeMars; John Ceci; Steven Hyder; and Salina Hyder, Plaintiffs, v. Barack Hussein OBAMA, in his official capacity as President of the United States, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Michigan

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED.

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED.

David Yerushalmi, Law Offices of David Yerushalmi, Chandler, AZ, Robert J. Muise, Ann Arbor, MI, for Plaintiffs.

Ethan P. Davis, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR INJUNCTION AND DISMISSING PLAINTIFFS' FIRST AND SECOND CLAIMS FOR RELIEF [DOC. # 7]

GEORGE CARAM STEEH, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), Jann DeMars, John Ceci, Steven Hyder, and Salina Hyder filed their complaint to challenge the constitutionality of the recently enacted federal law known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Health Care Reform Act or Act) 1 , which was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. Plaintiffs seek a declaration that Congress lacked authority under the Commerce Clause to pass the Health Care Reform Act, and alternatively a declaration that the penalty provision of the Act is an unconstitutional tax. In addition, plaintiffs allege that the Health Care Reform Act violates states' rights under the Tenth Amendment, the Free Exercise Clause, and the Fifth Amendment's Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses.

The matter is presently before the court on plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. As agreed to by the parties, and subsequently ordered by the court, trial and the preliminary injunction hearing on plaintiffs' Commerce Clause and tax power claims have been consolidated pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(a)(2). Also, the parties agree that there are no factual disputes to be resolved by the court before the matter can be decided as a matter of law. Oral argument was heard July 21, 2010.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The Health Care Reform Act seeks to reduce the number of uninsured Americans and the escalating costs they impose on the health care system. In an attempt to make health insurance affordable and available, the Act provides for “health benefit exchanges,” allowing individuals and small businesses to leverage their collective buying power to obtain prices competitive with group plans. Act §§ 1311, 1321. It provides for incentives for expanded group plans through employers, id. §§ 1421, 1513, affords tax credits for low-income individuals and families, id. §§ 1401-02, extends Medicaid, id. § 2001, and increases federal subsidies to state-run programs. Id. § 2001(a)(3)(B). The Act also prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing medical conditions, setting eligibility rules based on medical factors or claims experience, or rescinding coverage other than for fraud or misrepresentation. Id. §§ 1001, 1201.

Integral to the legislative effort to lower the cost of health insurance, expand coverage, and reduce uncompensated care is the so called minimum coverage provision which requires that every United States citizen, other than those falling within specified exceptions, maintain “minimum essential coverage” for health care for each month beginning in the year 2014. If an individual fails to comply with this requirement, the Act imposes a penalty to be included with a taxpayer's return.

Congress determined that the Individual Mandate 2 “is an essential part of this larger regulation of economic activity,” and that its absence “would undercut Federal regulation of the health insurance market.” Id. § 1501(a)(2)(H). Congress found that without the Individual Mandate, the reforms in the Act, such as the ban on denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, would increase the existing incentives for individuals to “wait to purchase health insurance until they needed care,” which in turn would shift even greater costs onto third parties. Id. § 1501(a)(2)(I). Conversely, Congress found that by “significantly reducing the number of the uninsured, the requirement, together with the other provisions of this Act, will lower health insurance premiums.” Id. § 1501(a)(2)(I). Congress concluded that the Individual Mandate “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.

Plaintiff Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) is a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. TMLC's employees receive health care through an employer health care plan sponsored and contributed to by TMLC. TMLC's health care plan is subject to the provisions and regulations of the Health Care Reform Act. The individual plaintiffs are United States citizens, Michigan residents, and federal taxpayers. None of them have private health care insurance, and each of them objects to being compelled by the federal government to purchase health care coverage. They contend that if they do not purchase health insurance and are forced to pay a tax, such tax money would go into the general fund and could go to fund abortions. Each of the individual plaintiffs objects to being forced by the federal government to contribute in any way to the funding of abortions.

ANALYSIS
I. Standing

Under Article III of the Constitution, a party must demonstrate standing in order to satisfy the “case or controversy” requirement necessary for a federal court to exercise its judicial power. The Supreme Court set forth three elements to establish standing in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992):

(1) Plaintiff must have suffered an injury in fact-an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) There must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of-the injury has to be fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant, and not the result of the independent action of some third party not before the court; and (3) It must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.

The first element is disputed by the parties in this case.

Plaintiff TMLC describes itself as a “national, public interest law firm” that “educate[s] and defend[s] the citizens of the United States with respect to their constitutional rights and liberties.” TMLC does not assert any injury to itself as an employer or organization; rather, it “objects ... through its members ... to being forced to purchase health care coverage.” “An association has standing to bring suit on behalf of its members when its members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right, the interests at stake are germane to the organization's purpose, and neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of individual members in the lawsuit.” Friends of Earth v. Laidlaw Environ. Servs., 528 U.S. 167, 181, 120 S.Ct. 693, 145 L.Ed.2d 610 (2000) (citation omitted). Plaintiffs Jann DeMars and Steven Hyder are members of TMLC, but plaintiffs John Ceci and Salina Hyder are not. The individual plaintiffs assert that they do not have private health insurance and object “to being compelled by the federal government to purchase health care coverage.” Plaintiffs claim they have “arranged their personal affairs such that it will be a hardship for them to have to either pay for health insurance that is not necessary or face penalties under the Act.”

According to plaintiff DeMars, a basic health care policy will cost approximately $8,832.00 per year, and to add one child will increase the cost to $9,914.28 per year. (DeMars' Suppl. Decl. ¶ 4). For standing, plaintiffs describe their injury as being subjected to an unconstitutional regulation causing present economic injury and forcing a change in behavior with a significant possibility of future harm. Plaintiff Hyder states, “I have arranged my personal affairs such that it will be a hardship for me and my family to have to either pay for health insurance that is not necessary or desirable or face penalties under the Act.” (Hyder Decl. ¶ 5). The Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010, so the minimum coverage provision is already law, there is no condition precedent necessary, nor is there any subsequent regulation required to make it so.

It is true that the minimum coverage provision does not become effective until 2014. The provision thus neither imposes obligations on plaintiffs nor exacts revenue from them before that time. Furthermore, the Act might not affect plaintiffs after 2014, if, for instance, changed health circumstances or other events lead plaintiffs voluntarily to satisfy the minimum coverage provision by buying insurance. They may also satisfy the provision by obtaining employment that includes a health insurance benefit. Indeed, the Act encourages employers to provide insurance to employees. Even if they do not obtain insurance, plaintiffs may have insufficient income in 2014 to become liable for any penalty.

Defendants focus on plaintiffs' assertion of future harm, pointing out that [a]llegations of possible future injury do not satisfy the requirements of Art. III. A threatened injury must be certainly impending to constitute injury in fact.” Rosen v. Tenn. Comm'r of Fin. & Admin., 288 F.3d 918, 929 (6th Cir.2002) (citation omitted). A plaintiff who “alleges only an injury at some indefinite future time” has not shown an injury in fact, particularly where the acts necessary to make the injury happen are at least partly within the plaintiff's own control.” Lujan, 504 U.S. at 564 n. 2, 112 S.Ct. 2130. In these situations, “the injury [must] proceed with a high degree of immediacy, so as to reduce the possibility of deciding a case in which no...

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