On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (Civil No. 10-cv-01489) District Judge: Hon. Susan D. Wigenton
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chagares, Circuit Judge.
Before: CHAGARES, JORDAN, and GREENAWAY, JR. Circuit Judges.
This appeal concerns a challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (referred to as the "Health Care Act" or the "Act"). The plaintiffs object primarily to the Act's minimum essential coverage provision, more commonly referred to as the individual mandate. The mandate, when it becomes effective in 2014, will require all non-exempt applicable individuals either to maintain a certain minimum level of health insurance or pay a monetary penalty. The plaintiffs' complaint asserts, generally, that the entire Health Care Act is unconstitutional because the individual mandate exceeds Congress's authority to pass laws.
The District Court dismissed the complaint without reaching the merits of this challenge. Rather, the District Court held that the plaintiffs failed to plead adequately injury in fact and, therefore, did not meet their burden to demonstrate standing. The plaintiffs now appeal that determination. For the reasons stated below, we will affirm.
The plaintiffs are Mario A. Criscito, M.D., a licensed New Jersey physician, "Patient Roe," a patient of Dr. Criscito's, and New Jersey Physicians, Inc., a non-profit corporation that "has as a primary purpose the protection and advancement of patient access to affordable, quality healthcare." Appendix ("App") 32a. Dr. Criscito is the only member of New Jersey Physicians, Inc. identified by the plaintiffs in their pleadings. The defendants are four governmental officials sued in their official capacities: President Barack Obama; Timothy Geithner, the United States Secretary of the Treasury; Eric Holder, the United States Attorney General; and Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
The complaint contains minimal allegations pertaining to the plaintiffs' provision or receipt of health care. The complaint alleges that Dr. Criscito "treats patients" "in the course of his individual practice of medicine," and that "[s]ome of those patients pay [him] for his care and do not rely on a third-party payor to do so on their behalf." App. 32a-33a. The complaint also alleges that Roe "is a patient of Dr. Criscito who pays himself for his care" and that he "is a citizen of the State of New Jersey who chooses who and how to pay for the medical care he receives from Dr. Criscito and others." App. 33a. Regarding New Jersey Physicians, Inc., the complaint asserts only that the organization's "members and their patients will be directly affected by the legislation at issue [i.e., the Health Care Act] . . . should the [legislation] become effective." App. 32a.
Only two sections of the Health Care Act*fn1 are relevant to this appeal.
The first is the previously mentioned individual mandate, 26 U.S.C. § 5000A. When it takes effect in 2014, the mandate will require all "applicable individual[s]" to either obtain a level of health insurance that qualifies as "minimum essential coverage" or pay a penalty. 26 U.S.C. § 5000A(a), (b), (c). The Act defines an "applicable individual" to be any United States citizen, national, or lawfully present alien unless that individual has a valid religious exemption or is presently incarcerated. 26 U.S.C. § 5000A(d). Not all applicable individuals are subject to the individual mandate, however. The Act exempts certain "applicable individual[s]," including those whose household income is insufficient to require them to file a federal income tax return, those whose premium payments exceed eight percent of their household income, and those who establish that the individual mandate imposes a hardship. 26 U.S.C. § 5000A(e). All non-exempt applicable individuals must comply with the individual mandate's requirement and acquire "minimum essential ...