The Appeals Court of the 11th Circuit just ruled that the individual mandate in the new Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. The ruling does, though, leave the rest of the law intact. From Politico:
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ruled that the health care reform law’s requirement that nearly all Americans buy insurance is unconstitutional, a striking blow to the legislation that increases the odds that the Supreme Court will have to review the law.
The panel partially upheld a ruling issued in January by Judge Roger Vinson, who struck down the entire health reform law. However, the 11th Circuit said that the rest of the legislation can stand even if the mandate is unconstitutional.
There should be little doubt now that the issue will end up before the Supreme Court.
The Appeals Court was right to allow the rest of the law to be implemented even if they felt the individual mandate is unconstitutional. Despite what some on the left and right are saying, the individual mandate is not essential to the overall function of the law.
It is both possible and legal to expand Medicaid, require guaranteed issue, establish new insurance regulations, and provide people with subsidies to buy insurance without a mandate. These policies can and have been put into effect in states without a mandate.
While many would argue that you would get a better overall outcome by including an individual mandate, it is not the role of the courts to strike down whole laws because one change might modestly change policy outcomes.
[Editor's Note: David Dayen has more, 11th Circuit Rules Individual Mandate Unconstitutional.]