US appeals court backs Obama healthcare law

District of Columbia panel says Congress did not overstep powers in requiring people to have insurance or face penalty.

    Republicans like Michelle Bachman are calling for Obama's Healthcare Act to be repealed [Reuters]

    US President Barack Obama’s healthcare legislation, which requires almost all citizens to have medical insurance by 2014, is constitutional, a US appeals court has ruled.

    The US Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld on Tuesday a lower court ruling that had found it constitutional to require people to buy healthcare insurance coverage by early 2014, or face a penalty.

    Healthcare reform bill

    Requires most citizens to have medical insurance

    Bars denial of coverage due to a medical history

    Prevents higher premiums due to health status or sex

    Extends coverage to 15 million low income workers

    "It certainly is an encroachment on individual liberty, but it is no more so than a command that restaurants or hotels are obliged to serve all customers regardless of race ... or that a farmer cannot grow enough wheat to support his own family," wrote Judge Laurence Silberman in the majority opinion, citing past federal mandates that inspired legal fights.

    It is a victory for the Obama administration, which argued that it had introduced the law to lessen the burden of the soaring healthcare costs and to increase coverage for the more than 35 million citizens without health care insurance.

    Judge Brett Kavanaug, of the Washington DC Circuit, said the federal court did not have jurisdiction to decide the case.

    In his 65-page dissent he wrote that the Anti-Injunction Act, "limits the jurisdiction of federal courts over tax-related matters" and said the penalty charged for not having insurance is a tax.

    Split views

    The latest ruling may be the last to rule on the law before the US Supreme Court takes up a request by the Obama administration to review an August 12 ruling by the appeals court in Atlanta, which found the insurance mandate is unconstitutional.

    More than half the states have sued to challenge the law, saying Congress overstepped its constitutional authority.

    A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court agreed, saying in August that the law is not protected by the Commerce
    Clause of the US Constitution, which allows Congress to regulate commerce among states.

    It, too, said the penalty for not having insurance was akin to a tax, which the US government was not entitled to levy.

    A US appeals court in Cincinnati has said the individual mandate was constitutional.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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