The Third Circuit yesterday affirmed a New Jersey district court’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by a group of New Jersey doctors challenging the constitutionality of the mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance under the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law 111-148See Opinion, New Jersey Physicians, Inc. et al. v. President of the United States, et al. (Third Circuit, Case No. 10-4600) (PDF).   The Third Circuit agreed with the district court that “the plaintiffs have not met their burden in pleading facts that establish the requisite injury in fact and therefore fail to demonstrate standing.” 

The Third Circuit’s decision stands in contrast to the Sixth Circuit’s June 29, 2011 decision which reached the merits of the plaintiffs’ challenge to the health care statute.  See Opinion, Thomas More Law Center, et al. v. Obama, et al. (Sixth Circuit, Case No. 10-2388) (PDF).  As we reported back in late June, the Sixth Circuit in Thomas More Law Center held that the plaintiffs had standing to assert their claims that the health care statute was unconstitutional, but it also went on to uphold (by a 2 to 1 margin) Congress’s power to enact the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause.  The Third Circuit expressly distinguished the Sixth Circuit’s decision, noting that the plaintiffs in Thomas More Law Center had actually “alleged or demonstrated that they were experiencing some current financial harm or pressure arising out of the individual mandate’s looming enforcement in 2014.”  In the Third Circuit case, by contrast, there were “no facts alleged to indicate that [the plaintiff] is in any way presently impacted by the Act or the mandate.”

The Sixth Circuit remains the only appellate court to have addressed the constitutionality of the health care statute on the merits.  Last week, the plaintiffs in the Thomas More Law Center case filed their petition for writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking a review of the Sixth Circuit’s decision.  We are continuing to follow the Thomas More Law Center case as it makes its way through the Supreme Court.