* Appellate court upholds lower court ruling
* Backs individual mandate requiring coverage for all
By Jeremy Pelofsky and Lisa Lambert
WASHINGTON, Nov 8 President Barack Obama's
signature healthcare law got a boost on Tuesday when a U.S.
appeals court agreed with a lower court that dismissed a
challenge and found the law's minimum coverage requirement was
The U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit
upheld a lower court ruling that had found it constitutional to
require Americans to buy healthcare insurance coverage by early
2014 or face a penalty and had dismissed a lawsuit challenging
"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.
"The right to be free from federal regulation is not
absolute, and yields to the imperative that Congress be free to
forge national solutions to national problems, no matter how
local -- or seemingly passive -- their individual origins."
It was the latest victory for the Obama administration,
which sought the new law to try to stem the soaring costs of
healthcare and to increase coverage for the more than 35
million Americans without healthcare insurance.
Silberman, a noted conservative judge, was appointed by
President Ronald Reagan and was joined by Judge Harry Edwards
who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter. The dissenting
judge was Brett Kavanaugh, appointed by President George W.
Two federal courts have thrown out the so-called individual
mandate but others have upheld it. The Supreme Court is
expected to take up the matter this term.
In the latest case, Kavanaugh broke with the other two
judges on the panel because he said the court did not have
jurisdiction to decide the case because the penalty charged for
not having insurance is effectively a tax.
In his 65-page dissent he wrote that the Anti-Injunction
Act, "limits the jurisdiction of federal courts over
tax-related matters" and thus should not touch the case until
2015 when the penalties could be imposed and challenged.
Kavanaugh also cautioned the courts against rushing to
decide the constitutionality of the law.
"We should hesitate to unnecessarily decide a case that
could usher in a significant expansion of congressional
authority with no obvious principled limit," he wrote.
Last month the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court
for a quick ruling on the requirement. The high court could
resolve the uncertainty over the law that is affecting the
federal government, states and companies. The court's current
term runs through June 2012.
"We're confident that, like today, we will prevail," said
Stephanie Cutter, assistant to Obama and his deputy senior
adviser, in a statement noting "the ruling also marks the third
time a federal appeals court has ruled in favor of the law."
"People who make a decision to forego health insurance do
not opt out of the health care market. Their action is not felt
by themselves alone," she said.
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 U.S. 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 U.S. government was not entitled to levy.
But a U.S. Appeals Court in Cincinnati said the individual
mandate was constitutional.
Meanwhile, Virginia is asking the Supreme Court to overturn
a decision throwing out its challenge that contends a federal
law cannot trump a state one allowing residents to forego