Appeals court hears states' challenge to reform law

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted June 20, 2011

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The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on June 8 in a lawsuit filed by 26 states challenging the constitutionality of the health system reform law.

The Atlanta hearing stemmed from the Obama administration's appeal of a Jan. 31 decision by Florida District Judge Roger Vinson, who ruled that the law was unconstitutional. Vinson said Congress surpassed its authority by requiring all Americans to purchase insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal K. Katyal argued the appellate case on behalf of the Obama administration. Former Bush administration Solicitor General Paul Clement argued on behalf of the states.

According to transcripts of the arguments, the appellate judges questioned whether upholding the law gives Congress too much power and might lead to other sweeping federal economic mandates. The judges said they knew of no other case in the nation's history where courts have allowed the government to compel citizens to buy a product.

The appellate court had not issued a decision at this article's deadline.

Federal judges in Virginia and several other states have issued conflicting rulings on whether the reform law -- particularly its requirement that people obtain health insurance or pay a penalty -- violates the Constitution. In December 2010, Virginia District Judge Henry Hudson struck down the individual mandate portion of the law. He did not invalidate the entire law or prevent it from going into effect, which the state had sought. The Justice Dept. appealed that ruling as well.

Two other judges have upheld the law's insurance mandate as constitutional, and at least 14 similar challenges have been dismissed. The majority of those cases are being appealed.

Experts say the U.S. Supreme Court probably will decide the cases.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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