A 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit issued its decision today in the case of Thomas More Law Center v. Obama, ruling that “the minimum coverage provision [of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] is a valid legislative power by Congress under the Commerce Clause.” The decision was 2-1, with Judge Boyce Martin writing for the majority. This is the first federal appellate court ruling on the health care law. The 4th Circuit and 11th Circuit will each be issuing their own decisions in the near future, with an ultimate decision most likely in the hands of the Supreme Court. Here’s a key portion of Judge Martin’s ruling today:
By regulating the practice of self-insuring for the cost of health care delivery, the minimum coverage provision is facially constitutional under the Commerce Clause for two independent reasons. First, the provision regulates economic activity that Congress had a rational basis to believe has substantial effects on interstate commerce. In addition, Congress had a rational basis to believe that the provision was essential to its larger economic scheme reforming the interstate markets in health care and health insurance.
In dissent, Judge James Graham strongly rejected the majority’s interpretation:
If the exercise of power is allowed and the mandate upheld, it is difficult to see what the limits on Congress’s Commerce Clause authority would be. What aspect of human activity would escape federal power? The ultimate issue in this case is this: Does the notion of federalism still have vitality? To approve the exercise of power would arm Congress with the authority to force individuals to do whatever it sees fit (within boundaries like the First Amendment and Due Process Clause), as long as the regulation concerns an activity or decision that, when aggregated, can be said to have some loose, but-for type of economic connection, which nearly all human activity does.... Such a power feels very much like the general police power that the Tenth Amendment reserves to the States and the people. A structural shift of that magnitude can be accomplished legitimately only through constitutional amendment.
Download the ruling here.