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Appeals court upholds Obama health care law

From NBC's Pete Williams
Today's ruling by a federal appeals court in Ohio, upholding the Obama health care law, marks the first time a Republican-appointed judge has found the most controversial part of the law constitutional.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was 2-1 on the "individual mandate" -- the requirement that all Americans get health insurance. One of the judges voting to uphold it was Jeffrey Sutton, an appointee of George W. Bush and a former law clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia.

This brings to four the number of court decisions upholding the law. Two other courts have declared it unconstitutional on its long march to the Supreme Court.

UPDATE: In 1942, the US Supreme Court ruled that Congress had the power to stop an Ohio farmer, Roscoe Filbert, from growing his own wheat. The court said then that his decision to grow his own, rather than buying wheat on the national market, affected interstate commerce, which Congress has the authority to regulate.

Today, the Sixth Circuit appeals court said the same logic applies to health insurance.

Opponents had argued that while Congress has broad authority to regulate economic activity, it has no authority over inactivity, such as a failure to buy insurance. But the appeals court said today that Congress is actually regulating the market of self-insurance for health care, in which people try to find some way to cover their costs other than by purchasing insurance.

But the court said self-insuring affects interstate commerce, by shifting the costs of the un-insured to people who have insurance, just as the wheat farmer affected interstate commerce by growing and consuming his own wheat instead of buying it on the national market.