A federal court in Atlanta on Friday struck down the centerpiece of President Obama's sweeping attempt to nationalize Americans' health insurance. The divided three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded Congress overstepped its authority when lawmakers passed the so-called individual mandate. The first such decision by a federal appeals court, it's "a stinging blow to Obama's signature legislative achievement" because so much else hinges on it, reports Greg Bluestein of RealClearPolitics.
The opinion found lawmakers cannot require residents to "enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die."
In a lengthy dissent, Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus accused the majority of ignoring the "undeniable fact that Congress' commerce power has grown exponentially over the past two centuries."
"Individuals who choose to go without health insurance are making an economic decision that affects all of us," argues White House adviser Stephanie Cutter. "When people without insurance obtain health care they cannot pay for, those with insurance and taxpayers are often left to pick up the tab."
But that situation results from ever-expanding federal mandates that require more and more medical services be delivered, in effect, "for free." When consumers no longer pay the real costs for what they want and incentives to buy insurance are removed, of course demand goes up and rationing must result.
Also circular is Judge Marcus' argument that -- because the Congress has already usurped many powers not delegated it in the Constitution (something the courts are supposed to prevent) -- the courts must now allow it to usurp even more.
The matter will almost certainly end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. As public opinion increasingly turns against the federal government's over-reaching and overspending, however, the question is whether that final ruling will prove anticlimactic.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette called Friday's decision a "huge victory in the fight to protect the freedom of American citizens from the long arm of the federal government." Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott declared, "ObamaCare is closer to an end."
Meantime, in a separate ruling Friday, the Ohio Supreme Court appeared to clear the way for voters there to decide whether to reject parts of the health care law at the polls in November.