(Bloomberg News) President Barack Obama's health-care legislation requiring almost all Americans to have medical insurance beginning in 2014 is constitutional, a U.S. appeals court ruled.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington today upheld the measure Obama signed into law in March 2010 by a 2-1 vote. It was the third appellate court to rule on the constitutionality of the statute, and the second to reject a challenge to its insurance mandate by opponents who argue the government has no right to force anyone into purchasing a service or product.
"Broad regulation is an inherent feature of Congress's constitutional authority in this area; to regulate complex, nationwide economic problems is to necessarily deal in generalities," Judge Laurence Silberman wrote. "Congress reasonably determined that as a class, the uninsured create market failures; thus, the lack of harm attributable to any particular uninsured individual, like their lack of overt participation in a market, is of no consequence."
The Washington appeals court may be the last to rule on the law before the U.S. Supreme Court takes it up. The Obama administration asked the high court to review an Aug. 12 ruling by the appeals court in Atlanta, which found the insurance mandate is unconstitutional.
The Christian faith-based Thomas More Law Center, which lost challenges to the legislation in a Detroit federal court and at a U.S. appeals court in Cincinnati, also asked the Supreme Court to review its case.
The high court justices will consider whether to take the cases at their conference on Nov. 10.
A U.S. Court of Appeals panel in Richmond, Virginia, addressing two cases in a pair of Sept. 8 rulings, concluded it was blocked from ruling on the merits of the law by a statute that generally bars challenging taxes before they're collected or assessed.
The law provides for a tax penalty to be levied on almost any American who fails obtain health coverage.
Attorney Edward L. White III of Ann Arbor, Michigan, who argued the case for the challengers, said he and his colleagues haven't decided whether to seek full-court review by the circuit court or seek review by the Supreme Court.
Linchpin Of Law
Government lawyers have called the mandatory coverage provision the linchpin of the health-care law because it would bring younger and healthier people into the insurance pool. While expanding the number of people paying premiums, the law bars insurers from rejecting anyone due to pre-existing conditions.