Will Individual Mandate Plaintiff Face Standing Obstacle?

By Robyn Hagan Cain on March 15, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Mary Brown, the lead plaintiff representing business owners in Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida, may have a standing problem.

Brown used to own a small auto repair shop in Florida. She didn't have health insurance. She didn't want health insurance. She didn't want the government to tell her that she had to purchase health insurance through the individual mandate, according to the Los Angeles Times. Last year, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Brown, (along with 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business), and ruled that the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional.

Brown recently declared bankruptcy, and a lot has been made of the fact that Brown has $4,500 of unpaid medical debt. Brown's critics have noted the irony in the situation. Some have claimed that Brown was "bankrupted by medical bills." Just so we're clear, medical debt is less than 10 percent of Brown's declared debt -- reportedly between $55,000 and $67,000 -- in the bankruptcy proceeding.

The real issue here is whether Brown's case will be dead on arrival when it reaches the Supreme Court later this month.

Brown closed her business in August, shortly before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, reports The Wall Street Journal. In that decision, the Eleventh Circuit noted that Mary Brown had standing to challenge the individual mandate, and "so long as at least one plaintiff has standing to raise each claim -- as is the case here -- we need not address whether the remaining plaintiffs have standing." The Wall Street Journal claimed last year that it would be more difficult for Brown to prove that she would be harmed by the legislation since she was no longer a business owner.

Brown's brief to the Court does little to establish why she has continued standing to pursue the case. (Brief thanks to the ABA for the documents.)

There are conflicting views on whether or not the Court will determine that Brown has standing for the case to go forward. Some experts believe that this Court, in particular, is a stickler for standing, while others think the Court will succumb to the pressure to resolve the debate regardless of standing misgivings, according to The Journal.

What's your guess? Will the Court agree with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals' arguably-outdated determination that Mary Brown has standing?

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