Friday, February 4, 2011

Another Health Care Reform Challenge Dismissed

Judge Keith Starrett (S.D. Miss.) today dismissed a challenge to the individual health insurance mandate in the federal Affordable Care Act.  The case, Bryant v. Holder, involved private Mississippians who do not possess any form of health insurance and who have no desire or intention to purchase it under the mandate.  Judge Starrett ruled, consistent with at least 14 other courts (only four have reached the merits, dividing 2-2), that the plaintiffs lacked standing in their challenge to the ACA under the Commerce Clause, the Takings Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the Tenth Amendment.  (See below on the Tenth Amendment claim.)  We posted most recently on standing in ACA challenges here; we posted most recently on other aspects of ACA challenges here.

Judge Starrett ruled that the plaintiffs failed to allege a "sufficiently impending" injury to support standing:

Plaintiffs' First Amended Petition contains insufficient allegations to establish that they will certainly be "applicable individuals" who must comply with the minimum coverage provision. For example, Plaintiffs did not allege any facts which, if true, would certainly establish that they would not be subject to the provision's religious exemption.  Plaintiffs simply alleged that they will be subject to the minimum essential care provision--a bare legal conclusion which the Court may not accept as true.  They did not include any factual allegations--other than their citizenship--to establish that they will be considered "applicable individuals" according to the provision's terms.

Furthermore, it is not certain from Plaintiffs' allegations that, in the event they were considered "applicable individuals," they would incur the tax penalty for non-compliance.  Their First Amended Petition contains insufficient allegations to establish that they will not be subject to one of the exemptions to the penalty. . . .

Op. at 19 (citations omitted).

Judge Starrett also ruled that Plaintiff Bryant, the State Lieutenant Governor but appearing in his "private and individual capacity here," lacked standing to challenge the ACA under the Tenth Amendment.  In short, Judge Starrett ruled that Bryant's claim alleging an injury to the "sovereign interests of the state of Mississippi" sought to vindicate the rights of a third party, in violation of the third-party standing rule.  Op. at 21-22. 

The Supreme Court will take up a private individual's standing to assert a Tenth Amendment claim later this month in Bond v. U.S.  That case involves a criminal defendant's standing to lodge a Tenth Amendment challenge to federal law. 

Judge Starrett gave the plaintiffs 30 days to amend their complaint.


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Most comprehensive private health insurance programs cover the cost of routine, preventive, and emergency health care procedures, and most prescription drugs, but this is not always the case. Health care reform typically attempts to: Broaden the population that receives health care coverage through either public sector insurance programs or private sector insurance companies.

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