Supporters of the Affordable Care Act scored a legal victory as a federal appeals court dismissed a pair of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the so-called individual mandate to buy health insurance.
On Sept. 8, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., tossed out a suit brought by Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. They concluded that Virginia did not have the legal standing to challenge the individual mandate because it will affect individuals, not the state.
Mr. Cuccinelli argued that the individual mandate violated the "Virginia Health Care Freedom Act," a state law that says no resident can be required to obtain insurance. The panel of judges rejected that argument, writing that the Virginia law, which was signed after the Affordable Care Act was enacted, was essentially a ploy to set up a legal challenge to the health reform law. The appeals court did not address whether the individual mandate was constitutional.
In the second ruling on Sept. 8, the same three-judge panel dismissed a challenge brought by Liberty University, a Christian college in Lynchburg, Va. In that case, Liberty University charged that law’s tax penalties for individuals and employers were unconstitutional. The appeals court ruled that the university also lacked standing because it cannot challenge the provisions until they take effect in 2014.
Both cases were sent back to district court with instructions that they be dismissed.
Today’s ruling come on the heels of a federal appeals court decision in August that the individual mandate was unconstitutional and must be thrown out. There are currently more than 25 active legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act working their way through courthouses around the country. One of those cases is expected to reach the Supreme Court in the next few years.