Appeals Court Dismisses Lawsuit Over ACA Employer Mandate Delay
On Friday, a three-judge panel for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a physician group that challenged President Obama's use of executive action to delay the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate, The Hill reports (Viebeck, The Hill, 9/22).
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons filed the suit in October 2013, claiming the ACA should be declared unconstitutional because the government failed to garner congressional approval when it postponed the employer mandate until 2015. Specifically, the suit alleged that Obama's executive action violates the 10th amendment and the constitutional separation of powers (California Healthline, 1/7). AAPS also argued that if the employer mandate is delayed, the individual mandate should also be delayed. They noted that they experienced harm because the penalties for not complying with the mandates would make it more difficult for individuals to seek medical care.
In their ruling, the judges said that the plaintiffs did not have standing to file the suit because they were not directly harmed by the delay. Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote in the ruling, "The [Supreme] Court has rejected efforts by one person to litigate about the amount of someone else's taxes (or someone else's subsidies, which are taxes in reverse)."
However, the judges noted that an individual employee of a company that went along with the delay could claim harm and could better challenge the executive action. Easterbrook wrote in the ruling, "Only persons seeking to advance the interests" of the employer mandate would hold a "plausible" right to challenge the delay, adding, "Someone else would be a much more appropriate champion of the contention that the [Internal Revenue Service] has not done what it should to accomplish the statute's goal of universal coverage."
Andrew Schlafly, the lawyer who represented AAPS, said the ruling should serve as a lesson to House Republicans, who have authorized a similar lawsuit that has not yet been filed. He said if there is "a large company that was not [observing] the employer mandate -- because Obama waived that for 2014 and for a lot of companies for 2015 -- one of those employees might have a plausible claim." He added, "If the House would add one of those individuals, that would give -- or should give -- the lawsuit standing."
Schlafly said AAPS officials have not yet indicated whether they will appeal the ruling (Haberkorn, Politico, 9/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.