President Obama’s Affordable Care Act won a significant victory today in Thomas More Law Center v. Obama. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld its constitutionality, and two of the judges on the panel are Republican appointees.
The political party is significant because, thus far, the constitutionality of the ACA has been upheld by Democratic appointees and rejected by Republican appointees. Affirmation by this panel is (I hope) a big step forward for the ACA as it makes its way to Supreme Court review.
The original plaintiffs argued that the ACA unconstitutionally compelled them to purchase minimum-coverage health insurance. They argued either that Congress exceeded its Commerce Clause power when it required this purchase, or that the penalty associated with failure to buy insurance is an unconstitutional tax. The Sixth Circuit found that the ACA is valid under the Commerce Clause because it regulates economic activity with a substantial effect on interstate commerce (particularly because the costs of health care for the uninsured are passed on to health care providers, then to private insurers, then to consumers). The court also rejected another popular anti-ACA argument: that it unconstitutionally regulates inactivity. To the contrary, wrote the court: it regulates activity, since nearly every citizen is a consumer of health care.
I hope the trend keeps rolling in the federal appeals courts. The ACA offers so much promise for people without access to health care–let’s give it a chance to show what it can accomplish.