Federal Appeals Court Blocks VA Challenge to Affordable Care Act

Yesterday the three judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond Virginia unanimously ruled to throw out a lawsuit filed by the state of Virginia challenging the constitutionality of the mandated minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). This provision requires that a person purchase minimum health coverage or face a modest monetary penalty beginning in 2011. Because the case uses state law to challenge a federal act, the court ruled that the state did not have legal standing to proceed with the case.

Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote in her decision, “Virginia, the sole plaintiff here, lacks standing to bring this action. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the district court and remand with instructions to dismiss the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.” Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli indicated that he will likely appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

The Department of Justice issued a statement in support of the court’s decision, saying, “Throughout history, there have been similar challenges to other landmark legislation such as the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act, and all of those challenges failed as well. We will continue to vigorously defend the health care reform statute in any litigation challenging it, and we believe we will prevail.”

Currently under the ACA, daughters and sons under 26 years of age can receive insurance through their parents’ coverage, the donut hole for seniors is closing, and certain preventive procedures, such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and pap smears, no longer require a co-payment or other direct costs. Under the ACA, private insurance plans beginning on or after August 1, 2012 will also cover an annual well-woman visit and a variety of specific health screenings and counseling, such as for domestic and interpersonal violence, gestational diabetes, cervical cancer (an HPV DNA screening), HIV and STIs, as well as all FDA-approved contraceptives, breastfeeding support, lactation services, and supplies. President Obama signed the final version of the Affordable Care Act in March. The final law will eventually add coverage for 32 million people, increasing access to family planning and preventive care.

In June, the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio decided with a 2-1 majority that the mandated minimum coverage provision is constitutional under the Commerce Clause. In August, the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta ruled against the provision.

CNN 9/8/11; CNN 9/8/11; Feminist Daily Newswire 8/30/11, 6/30/11

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