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National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: March 28, 2012
Case #: 11-393
Court Below: 648 F.3d 1235 (11 Cir. 2011)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.uscourts.gov/uscourts/courts/ca11/201111021.pdf

Constitutional Law: Whether the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act must be invalidated because its mandate requiring individuals to obtain health insurance is non-severable from the remainder of the Act.

(Consolidated with question two in Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services (11-400) for ninety minutes of argument on this question.)

Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Act), which comprehensively restructured and reformed the health care system. The Act contains a mandate that virtually every American must maintain minimum health insurance or face a financial penalty. The National Federation of Independent Business, two private citizens, and 26 states (Petitioners) filed suit in federal court claiming that the Act exceeded Congress’ power under Article I of the Constitution. The district court struck down the entire Act, holding that the individual mandate was non-severable because it represented an essential part of Congress’s reform efforts and because the remainder of the Act could not survive independently. The district court entered a declaratory judgment that the entire Act was void, but stayed its judgment pending appeal. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s decision regarding severability, holding that although the individual mandate is facially unconstitutional, it is severable from the remainder of the Act because the Act contains numerous stand-alone provisions which lack connection to the individual mandate.

Petitioners argue that the question of severability turns on Congressional intent. Because Congress considered the individual mandate essential to achieving the overall purpose of the Act, it is clear that Congress did not intend the Act to survive without it. Furthermore, the individual mandate was essential to the passage of the Act; without the individual mandate, the Act would not have passed because the Act's stated purpose of insuring the uninsured would have been impossible to achieve. Finally, Petitioners argue that because the Act's core provisions cannot survive without the individual mandate, and because the remainder of Act cannot survive without its core provisions, the entire Act must be invalidated.