U.S. Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: November 14, 2011
  • Case #: 11-398
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 648 F. 3d 1235 (11th Cir. 2011)
  • Full Text Opinion

(1) Whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is beyond Congress’ Article I power because it includes a mandate for individuals to obtain health insurance or pay a monetary fine; and (2) Whether the Anti-Injunction Act, 26 U.S.C. §7421(a), bars suits by challengers to the Act.

(A total of two hours is allotted for oral argument on Question 1. One hour is allotted for oral argument on the additional question.)

Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the Act) in an effort to address rising health care costs and to provide affordable insurance coverage for uninsured Americans. Since its enactment, the Act has been widely challenged by twenty-six states, individuals, and private businesses who object in particular to section 1601, which requires individuals to obtain federally approved health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. Challengers of the Act assert that section 1601 is outside the scope of Congress’ power granted by the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. They also claim that the penalty imposed on individuals who fail to maintain minimum health insurance is not a tax and therefore is not authorized under the Taxing and Spending Clause. Whether or not the penalty is a tax is relevant to whether the suit could be barred by the Anti-Injunction Act, which bars suits that restrain the collection of a tax.

The District Court for the Northern District of Florida granted summary judgment for plaintiffs, holding that the Act was unconstitutional as a whole since section 1601 was non-severable and outside the boundaries of Congress’ Commerce Power. The District court also held that the penalty imposed was not a tax. On a motion for clarification by the government, the District Court entered a stay pending appeal. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part holding that section 1601 was outside Congress’ Commerce power. It also held that the individual mandate operated as a regulatory penalty, and not a tax pursuant to the Taxing and Spending Clause, because the goal of the individual mandate was not to raise revenue, but to reduce the number of the uninsured and to make health insurance more widely available. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to address conflicting opinions among the federal circuit courts.

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