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Judge Throws Out Health Care Law, Calls Individual Mandate Unconstitutional

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A federal judge in Florida voided the entirety of the nation's new health care law Monday, declaring that the Congress overstepped its constitutional authority last year when it mandated individual health insurance coverage by 2014. For the Obama administration, it was the second adverse ruling from the federal courts in just the past seven weeks and presaged a new round of legal appeals and political wrangling over the controversial health care initiative.

In a 78-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, a 1983 appointee of President Reagan from the Northern District of Florida, wrote that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 violated both the "Commerce Clause" and the "Necessary and Proper" clause of the Constitution because it sought to federally regulate inactivity -- the individual choice not to purchase health insurance. Judge Vinson wrote:

"It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause. If it has the power to compel an otherwise passive individual into a commercial transaction with a third party merely by asserting -- as was done in the Act -- that compelling the actual transaction is itself 'commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce,' it is not hyperbolizing to suggest that
Congress could do almost anything it wanted."

Judge Vinson continued: "It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America, would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place. If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain for it would be 'difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power' and we would have a Constitution in name only (citations omitted)."

The judge declared that he could not separate out the "individual mandate" provision of the new law from its other components and thus struck down the entire law -- a first from the federal courts since passage of the act last year. However, Judge Vinson refused to enjoin the enforcement of those provisions in the act which, unlike the individual mandate, already have taken effect, including provisions which allow adult children to remain under their parents' insurance. Those provisions presumably will remain in force pending a final resolution of the legal dispute over the act.

The Justice Department issued the following statement following the ruling: "We strongly disagree with the court's ruling today and continue to believe -- as other federal courts have found -- that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. This is one of a number of cases pending before courts around the country, including several that the government has won in the district courts that are now before the courts of appeals. There is clear and well-established legal precedent that Congress acted within its constitutional authority in passing this law and we are confident that we will ultimately prevail on appeal."

With Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum taking the lead, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of several states just hours after President Barack Obama signed the measure into law on March 23, 2010. Since that time, additional states have joined the litigation (four joined earlier this month) and now 26 are part of what constitutes the most serious legal challenge to the health care measure.

Earlier Monday, each of the Republican senators declared they were ready to repeal the act. Following the ruling, House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case late last year, said: "This health care law remains a major source of uncertainty for small businesses, which is why all parties involved should request that this case be sent to the U.S. Supreme Court for a swift and fair resolution."

Last month, as a result of another lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson, an appointee of President George W. Bush, sitting in Virginia, declared portions of the new act unconstitutional but stopped short of the sweeping scope of Judge Vinson's ruling. Two other judges, meanwhile, both appointees of Democratic presidents, have ruled the comprehensive new law a valid exercise of congressional power.

The dispute, which in the Florida case now moves to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, almost certainly will have to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier this month, Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, in an unrelated case the Court rejected for argument, expressed concerns about what they called an expanded view of congressional power under the Commerce Clause.

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488 Comments

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Allie

I just know that when my policy renewed in Jan, my prescriptions went from $45/mth on a co-pay system to over $250.00 with co-insurance. It is sad when hard working people can no longer afford their prescriptions, so that people who do not work can have health insurance!! I am furious and think that if you are not working the first prescription you get is mandatory birth control. If you can't afford your own insurance then you don't need to be having babies you can't afford either!!

February 12 2011 at 3:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Hi There,

I couldn't possibly listen to anything he or McConnell have to offer to our country when their own constituents in Martin County are so poor they have no electricity, heat and God forbid a TV. What the heck! It's like they are living in Egypt.Why should I expect them to make the right decisions for our country? They obviously don't care about anyone, not even their fellow Kentuckians.

February 02 2011 at 11:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hi There,

If this is so, then why must I have car insurance so that I can drive a car, and house insurance if I have a mortgage from a bank. Does this mean then, that those who don't have health insurance can't receive medical care unless they pay cash for the health services from doctors and hospitals? That's OK with me as long as I don't have to pay an additional 10% premium to cover the cost of providing helathcare to those who don't pay for it themselves or choose not to have health insurance. So who decides who must buy insurance some of the time and not all of the time.Apparently the government decided I should have car insurance and house insurance so why not health insurance?

February 02 2011 at 10:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael

The goal of Obamacare is to shift the cost of care from those who are old, poor, and sick to those who are not. Perhaps noble, but not likely constitutional. Vinson seems to concur.

February 01 2011 at 9:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
fpfp040408

the SC will uphold it

February 01 2011 at 3:55 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
JOHN

I can berely pay my own insurance, stop asking me to pay for others.

February 01 2011 at 2:46 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to JOHN's comment
drdave415

Then why did Obama and the dems craft a bill that requires everyone to buy insurance from the private insurance companies and why did they cut a backroom deal with pharmacueticals NOT to negotiate lower drug costs for seniors?

February 02 2011 at 11:11 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
SIR BORIS

This government has done nothing but divide the American people: dems vs pubs,
blacks vs whites, gays vs straights, rich vs poor. Divide and conquer keeps the people busy while they get on with thier agenda. Wake up people. America 1st.

February 01 2011 at 2:33 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
Jamie Warren

Everett Mozell11:20 PM Jan 31, 2011 Michael, catch your breath. The slippery slope is a theory. No one is going to force you to eat broccoli. This law tells the freeloaders that they must finally pay for the healthcare that I and other physicians give them and to stop stiffing us and Americans that DO responsibly pay for insurance. Leave the final verdict to the Supreme Court..... Everett, maybe if doctors would charge a reasonable rate you wouldn't get stiffed. Tell me why doctors charge anywhere from $70.00 to $100.00 just for an office vist and we have to pay that before you will even see us. Why when you write us a perscription for (1)pill it cost $100.00. And please tell me why a velcro knee brace cost $935.00. Maybe this is where the reform needs to start.

February 01 2011 at 2:30 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jamie Warren's comment
SIR BORIS

You are only paying 10% for your bill and the other 90% is for the others that did not pay.

February 01 2011 at 2:37 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
msgusarmyret77

I wonder what the 48,000 people who die each year because they lack health insurance would think of this Republican appointed judges opinion. In the next few years no one except the very wealth will be able to have health insurance. Then see what happens in this country. It could be another Egypt because the have-nots will get tired of the haves getting all the breaks.

February 01 2011 at 1:28 PM Report abuse -8 rate up rate down Reply
picard295

Thank God the Supreme Court will be forced to read the bill and decide on its Constitutionality. I know no one in the Congress read the bill before voting on it; and very few of them even gave a passing thought to Constitutional issues when they dream up these laws to screw up the country.

February 01 2011 at 12:55 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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