11th Circuit rules against health care mandate

Earlier this summer, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Affordable Care Act is perfectly constitutional and the conservative arguments related to the individual mandate are bunk. Today, in keeping with the way this process has unfolded from the beginning, the 11th Circuit reached the opposite conclusion.

A U.S. appeals court ruled Friday that President Barack Obama’s healthcare law requiring Americans to buy healthcare insurance or face a penalty was unconstitutional, a blow to the White House.

The U.S. Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, found that Congress exceeded its authority by requiring Americans to buy coverage, but also ruled that the rest of the wide-ranging law could remain in effect.

That last part is of particular interest. The 11th Circuit was hearing an appeal of the ridiculous Vinson ruling, which raised doubts about the “severability” of the mandate provision from the rest of the law. Today’s appeals court ruling (pdf) effectively found that the mandate is a problem, but the rest of the law is fine.

The 11th Circuit is generally considered one of the nation’s most conservative, and today’s ruling was split, two juges to one.

For those keeping score at home, there were five federal district courts to rule on the ACA on the merits, three sided with the law’s constitutionality and two sided against it. There are now two federal appeals court rulings, and they’re split one to one.

With the 6th and 11th circuits in conflict, there is now no real doubt that the Supreme Court will have to hear the case. We can probably expect a ruling next June — about five months before the presidential election.