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Healthcare Litigation Makes Its Way to 9th Circuit Court

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 07, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Rumor has it that the healthcare litigation is finally making its way to the Golden State.

Well, it’s not quite rumor if it’s in a press release .

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has joined the ranks of the 4th Circuit and the 6th Circuit in hearing the case against health insurance reform. According to a press release at Standard Newswire, the 9th Circuit at the federal courthouse in Pasadena will hear the constitutional challenge to the “individual mandate” on July 13, 2011. Written briefs on this matter have already been submitted.

The individual mandate is that part of the healthcare reform act that says that individuals must obtain a minimum level of health insurance. The failure to do so would result in a penalty. Notwithstanding the fact that certain hardship exemptions exist for those who can't afford healthcare, the penalty would be imposed starting in 2015 and has been justified by the government as falling within the Congressional powers to tax for the general welfare.

The "tax" part is a little tricky, however. The penalty provisions are enacted under an addition to the Tax Code. In looking at the language and the enforcement provisions of the penalty, the government is arguing that the penalty is a tax. If this argument is successful, then the government will be deemed to have been well within the Commerce Clause powers to enact the healthcare reform act.

The 9th Circuit lawsuit is brought by Pacific Justice Institute and former Assemblyman Steve Baldwin. The case was already thrown out at the district court level, according to California Healthline:

"In August 2010, District Judge Dana Sabraw dismissed the case, saying the plaintiffs had no legal right to sue because the law's individual mandate had yet to take effect and the plaintiffs had not demonstrated harm resulting from the law."

Legal pundits will be watching the 9th Circuit case closely. The case is currently before two other circuits and is anticipated to come before others. If the circuits issue conflicting opinions, the case will almost certainly proceed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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