Today a panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, marking the first time an appellate court has ruled against the legislation on this issue.
The panel only struck the mandate portion of the law, ruling that the expansion of Medicaid was constitutional. The issue was before the court after a ruling issued in January by Judge Roger Vinson who struck the entire law. The 11th Circuit panel however said the rest of the legislation can stand, even if the mandate is unconstitutional.
The panel decision does not come as much of a surprise. The 11th Circuit is considered a conservative district, comprising federal district courts in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. The conservative makeup of the court was a key consideration in where the 26 Republican governors and attorneys general filed their challenges.
Given the limited scope of the decision, this can hardly be considered a win for opponents of the Affordable Care Act. Vinson’s original ruling gave a broad whack at the bill and a conservative appeals court refused to follow suit. The Obama administration, on the other hand, was likely expecting a loss at the 11th Circuit and should be pleasantly surprised by the limited scope of the ruling.
The federal government has 90 days to appeal the panel’s decision to the Supreme Court or to ask the entire 11th Circuit to review the ruling.
Photo from steakpinball via flickr.