4th Circuit Asks: 'Is Obamacare Unconstitutional?'

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on May 24, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Obamacare lawsuits are before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals this month, after conflicting decisions from lower courts. Now the question before the three-judge panel is the same that many courts have addressed: Is Obamacare unconstitutional?

According to CBS News, 31 lawsuits have been filed challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. Nine such cases have been appealed, but the two Virginia cases are the first to reach the argument stage in a federal appeals court.

A three-judge panel has been reviewing two cases challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. In a case brought by Liberty University, a private religious college in Lynchburg, the lower court ruled that Obamacare was constitutional. In a separate suit brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the lower court ruled that Obamacare was unconstitutional.

At issue in both cases was the idea that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce with a provision of the law that requires individuals to obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty, says The Washington Post.

In its case, the state of Virginia asserted its standing by virtue of the fact that the state has a law that is in direct conflict with the Federal Obamacare law; an argument met with skepticism by the 4th Circuit judges. Essentially, the Virginia law, enacted after the passage of Obamacare, makes it illegal to require a Virginian to be insured.

Liberty University made a different assertion, citing that a citizen can't be mandated by the government to take part in economic activity. To this, Acting Solicitor General Neal Kumar Katyal rebutted by saying that an individual who chooses not to take insurance is also participating in the health care market, when such citizen shows up for medical care, citing that uncompensated health care is a financial burden on the state and on individual families, whose premiums rise as a result.

With the case still in appellate court, Cuccinelli has already made a bid to the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case on an expedited basis, which was denied. Nevertheless, eyes are on the Supreme Court and should the case reach SCOTUS, Obamacare opponents are already insisting that Justice Kagan preemptively recuse herself from the case.

As for now, the case must follow the correct judicial avenues prior to reaching the Supreme Court. And with the 4th Circuit's decision yet to be made, Obamacare opponents and proponents can only wait and see.

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