A federal appeals court here has dismissed two cases challenging the 2010 health care reform law, ruling the plaintiffs did not have grounds to sue.


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Health reform act wins round in court

September 26th, 2011

RICHMOND, Va. – A federal appeals court here has dismissed two cases challenging the 2010 health care reform law, ruling the plaintiffs did not have grounds to sue.

Two of the three judges on the panel said they would have upheld the law if they had been able to rule on the suits’ merits.

Other courts have issued conflicting decisions. An appeals court in Cincinnati backed the law’s requirement that, starting in 2014, most Americans obtain health insurance, known as the "individual mandate." But a panel in Atlanta rejected that provision, known as the individual mandate. Still other cases are wending their way through the appellate process. The Supreme Court has yet to indicate whether it will take one or more of the cases.

The Richmond court vacated lower court decisions in suits brought by Virginia attorney general Kenneth Cuccinelli II; and Liberty University, a Christian college in Lynchburg, Va.
The ruling in the Cuccinelli suit had overturned the individual mandate. The other supported the same provision, which is considered central to the law.

The appeals court unanimously ruled Cuccinelli did not have grounds to sue because he was invoking a state law to upend a federal act. Unlike in the Liberty suit, which included individual plaintiffs who might be directly affected by the mandate, Cuccinelli presented his complaint as a conflict between state and federal law.

The Virginia Health Care Freedom Act, enacted a day after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, says that no Virginia resident “shall be required to obtain or maintain a policy of individual insurance coverage.”

Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote that the only apparent function of the state law was “to declare Virginia’s opposition to a federal insurance mandate.” She said that by the same token, a state could challenge any federal statute by enacting its own law.

Cuccinelli says he will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

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