No Standing, No Health Care Reform Appeal

8/3/2011 11:29:00 AM, Barbara Leonard
     PHILADELPHIA (CN) - A doctor, his patient and the nonprofit health care organization to which he belongs lack standing to challenge health care reform, the 3rd Circuit affirmed Wednesday.

     A New Jersey federal judge had dismissed the complaint, which primarily objects to the minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, without considering the merits of the claim.
     Last month, however, the 6th Circuit affirmed the constitutionality of the so-called individual mandate provision, backing the decision of a Detroit federal judge on appeal.
     Appeals stemming from passage of the act are pending in federal appeals courts throughout the country, including most notably in the 11th and 4th Circuits, districts where judges have found the law to be unconstitutional.
     New Jersey physician Mario Criscito, one of his anonymous patients and New Jersey Physicians Inc. filed suit against the U.S. government in March 2010, but the court
     Held that all three plaintiffs lacked standing because they failed to allege the requisite injury in fact.
     The anonymous patient haad claimed he "pays himself for his care" as a New Jersey resident "who chooses who and how to pay for the medical care he receives from Dr. Criscito and others."
     The federal appeals court was unimpressed.
     "These allegations are factually barren with respect to standing," Judge Michael Chagares wrote for the three-judge panel. "The first apparently suggests that Roe pays for his own health care. The second reveals only that, before Roe pays, he chooses his doctor and his method of payment. It provides no specifics as to whom Roe chooses or how Roe pays."
     Chagares said there are no allegations that Roe is in any way presently impacted by the act or the mandate, or that he will be.
     "There is nothing inherent in the terms of the mandate that will alter Roe's current reality, at least as that reality is set forth in the plaintiffs' complaint," the 15-page decision states. "Roe will continue to be free to choose 'who and how' to pay for his health care needs, including by paying for those needs out of his own pocket. The individual mandate may, of course, impact Roe depending on the precise 'who and how' he chooses."
     Chagares noted that plaintiffs in other pending health care challenges have showed that they "were experiencing some current financial harm or pressure arising out of the individual mandate's looming enforcement in 2014."
     Criscito's claim fails in the same way and also fails to allege future injury under the law's employer responsibility provision, which applies to employers that have at least fifty full-time employees.
     But Criscito failed to specify how many employees he has.
     As for Criscito's nonprofit group, New Jersey Physicians, the plaintiffs failed to identify any member other than Criscito, and the court already proved he lacked standing. Attachment