On September 8, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out two challenges to the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), declining to pass judgment on last year’s healthcare reform law and the constitutionality of its individual mandate that all Americans be required to obtain health insurance.
One case was a challenge brought forth by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, while the other was filed by Liberty University of Lynchburg, Virginia. In the first case, the appeals judges said the state lacked the standing to sue over the healthcare law. In the second case, the judges sent the case back to the federal district court with instructions to dismiss, saying that the courts do not have jurisdiction over attempts to restrain the assessment of a tax even before the tax is collected – a reference to PPACA’s penalty on those who do not obtain health insurance.
As we recently reported in our last update, in late June the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that Congress had authority through the commerce clause to enact the individual mandate, while in August the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the provision is unconstitutional – creating split in circuit decisions.
Given the split and the September 8 decision to throw out two more cases, the constitutionality of the law is ultimately expected to be decided by the Supreme Court. While it is expected that the Supreme Court will accept one or several cases for consideration, what remains to be seen is the timing for consideration, given the upcoming presidential election.