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Labor and Personnel Issues, Legal

Health Insurance Law Ruled Unconstitutional

On Friday (August12, 2011), the Eleventh Circuit held that the new Health Insurance law is unconstitutional.

The particular law that was at issue in the case as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (2010), amended by  Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-152, 124 Stat. 1029 (2010).  This is the law that is commonly known in the press as “Obamacare.”

The Court of Appeals noted that the Act is 975 pages long.  Because of the complicated nature of the law, the importance of the law, and also because of the fact that the Court must start with a presumption of Constitutionality whenever it is examining a law passed by Congres, it took the Court a few extra pages to analyze the constitutionality of the matter.  In fact the decision of the Court of Appeals was 304 pages long (207 for the decision, 84 for the dissenting opinion of Judge Marcus, and 13 for the appendix to the decision).

  • The expansion of Medicaid was Constitutional;
  • The individual mandate to purchase health insurance from a private company exceeded Congress’ power and was thus Unconstitutional;
  • The individual mandate can be severed from the remainder of the health insurance law and thus the remainder of the complicated law remains in effect (without the individual mandate).

This is probably not the end of the road. It is highly likely that the Administration will seek to defend the health insurance law and will thus seek to appeal to the Supreme Court.

This is a long and complicated ruling. It is not surprising that many people are drawing their own conclusions without reading the ruling itself.  It is important to understand the rather limited focus of the Court’s decision (as described in the three bullet points).  An example of the rhetoric that has already strained the bounds of common sense is found in the House Minority Leader’s responsive press release, which stated:

“This ruling would put the ban on discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions at risk.”

Actually, the ruling explicitly permitted the other elements of the Act (like the ban on discrimination) to remain in place.  In fact, the majority decision acknowledges in section II.(D)(4) that the Act forbids insurers from denying coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition.

The Eleventh Circuit’s opinion is available online, at


About Jason Dickstein

Mr. Dickstein is the President of the Washington Aviation Group, a Washington, DC-based aviation law firm. He represents several aviation trade associations, including the Aviation Suppliers Association, the Aircraft Electronics Association, the Air Carrier Purchasing Conference, and the Modification and Replacement Parts Association. He also represents private clients drawn from the spectrum of the aviation industry.


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