An Atlanta federal appeals court has tossed out key provisions of the sweeping healthcare reform bill led by President Obama, marking the most significant roadblock of the legislation to date.
A divided 2-1 panel of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday found the law’s “individual mandate” section, requiring nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014, was an improper exercise of federal authority, CNN reported.
“This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives,” Chief Judge Joel Dubina wrote.
The ruling sided with a group of 26 states that also challenged the law, the Wall Street Journal reported. It marks the Obama administration’s biggest defeat to date in the multi front legal battle over the health-care law, although it doesn’t claim all of the legislation is unconstitutional, just the individual mandate.
The court’s majority wrote that: “the individual mandate was enacted as a regulatory penalty, not a revenue-raising tax, and cannot be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Taxing and Spending Clause,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.
The decision directly conflicts with a different ruling issued in June by a Cincinnati federal appeals court that upheld the law.
The disagreement between the circuits makes it a near certainty that the Supreme Court will eventually have to step in and provide the final word on the law’s constitutionality, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Several other legal challenges are working their way through the nation’s courts: a case brought by 26 governors and attorneys general, almost all of them Republicans, from states including Florida, Ohio and Texas.