(WASHINGTON, DC) — The Rutherford Institute has filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that will determine whether the major overhaul of the nation’s healthcare financing system adopted by Congress in 2010 will survive. The Institute’s brief in U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services v. State of Florida asks the Court to strike down the “Individual Mandate” provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, which requires almost all Americans to purchase health insurance, as an unwarranted and unprecedented exercise of power by the federal government. Arguing that by enacting the Individual Mandate “Congress has intruded on individuals’ rights to make private decisions about their own health and in the process has disrupted the federal-state balance” of power, Rutherford Institute attorneys have asked the Supreme Court to uphold a lower court ruling that the Individual Mandate is an improper exercise by Congress of its authority to regulate interstate commerce.
The brief in U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services v. State of Florida is available here.
“No American should be penalized for choosing not to have health insurance,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “The Individual Mandate provision of the Obama Administration’s Healthcare Reform legislation is an unprecedented exercise of federal power in a field that has historically been a province of the states.”
After taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama embarked on a legislative initiative to overhaul the nation’s health care system, resulting in the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. An integral part of the legislation is the Individual Mandate which commands that, with limited exceptions, all individuals within the United States ensure that they and their dependents are covered by a minimum level of health insurance each month. Individuals who fail to comply with the Individual Mandate are subject to penalty which is statutorily set at $695 per person, including those for whom the noncompliant person is responsible. The Act provides that Congress enact the Individual Mandate under its power to regulate “interstate commerce” as set forth in Article I, § 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Shortly after its enactment, Florida and 12 other states filed a lawsuit challenging various aspects of the Act, including the Individual Mandate, arguing that Congress had exceeded its power under the Interstate Commerce Clause. In August 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld the states’ claim that the Individual Mandate was unconstitutional and constituted an unprecedented exercise of authority by Congress in requiring persons to purchase a product for the remainder of their lives.
In their amicus brief, Rutherford Institute attorneys ask the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the appeals court’s decision, arguing that a ruling upholding the Individual Mandate “has implications not only as to the freedom of citizens to decide how to provide for their health care, but more broadly on the federalism embodied in the United States Constitution that is meant to preserve liberty by preventing the concentration of power in the national government.” The Institute’s brief points out that the Courts have traditionally recognized that the Constitution permits states to make general health and welfare decisions for the public good, and that the Individual Mandate is contrary to this rule and not a “necessary and proper” exercise of Congressional authority.
Alfred W. Putnam, Jr. and other attorneys with the law firm of Drinker, Biddle & Reath LLP, of Philadelphia assisted The Rutherford Institute in drafting and filing the amicus brief.