Thursday, June 30, 2011

Healthcare Law Wins One More Court Appeal

You’re not going to see it in the headlines, but the healthcare law passed last year withstood yet another court challenge.

The health-care law seeks to extend medical coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans and make major changes in public and private health insurance. By far the most contested provision is the individual mandate, which requires most Americans to purchase at least a minimum level of health insurance starting in 2014 and imposes a tax penalty if they don’t.

Like other legal challenges, the lawsuit filed by the Thomas More Law Center — a Christian-oriented law firm in Michigan — says Congress overstepped its constitutional authority to regulate commerce.

A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit disagreed. The mandate is constitutional, Martin wrote, because “Congress had a rational basis to believe” that the provision would affect interstate commerce and that it was “essential” to the law’s broader goals of reforming the health-care market.

Judge James Graham, a Republican appointee, dissented, but it was the concurrence of Sutton — a George W. Bush appointee and former law clerk for conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — that was most noteworthy.

Sutton wrote that “the government has the better of the arguments” and that “Congress . . . did not exceed its power” in passing the individual mandate. But he also appeared to acknowledge that his word would not be final, writing, “The Supreme Court has considerable discretion in resolving this dispute.”

So far, the law has withstood three challenges and been struck down by two. What’s really important is that the decision was handed down by Republican-appointed judges, including one who used to clerk for that wild-eyed liberal activist Justice Antonin Scalia.

So why isn’t it news?