Lifestyle & Belief

Obamacare challenge reaches U.S. Supreme Court

A conservative law center petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday asking the court to strike down a provision in President Obama’s health care reform law that requires Americans to buy health insurance.

The Thomas More Law Center, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., claims the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not give Congress the authority to compel private citizens to buy health insurance, Reuters reports.

If the mandate stands, “the federal government will have absolute and unfettered power to create complex regulatory schemes to fix every perceived problem imaginable and to do so by ordering private citizens to engage in affirmative acts, under penalty of law,” the law center claims in its petition.

In June, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati voted 2-1 to uphold the provision requiring most U.S. residents to purchase health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. The purpose of the mandate is to provide medical coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans.

One of the 6th circuit judges to uphold the law, Jeffrey Sutton, was appointed by former President George W. Bush – the first Republican-appointed judge to rule in favor of the health care overhaul. The appellate decision was not just a political victory for Obama, but a legal one as well. It was the first time a mid-level federal court had upheld a major component of the landmark legislation.

Two other federal appeals courts in Richmond, Va. and Atlanta have heard similar arguments challenging the law but have not yet issued decisions.

Although the Supreme Court hears only a fraction of the cases that petition it for review, legal experts expect the high court to ultimately take on the issue of whether the health care law is constitutional – most likely during its upcoming term that begins in October. The earliest the court would hear the case is early 2012, the AP reports.

The Thomas More Law Center originally filed the lawsuit on March 23, 2010, the day Obama signed the health care reform bill into law.