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Third Federal Judge OKs Affordable Care Act

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A federal trial judge in Washington, D.C., Tuesday bluntly rejected the latest legal challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, ruling that the "individual mandate" requirement in the new federal health care law was a legitimate exercise of congressional power to regulate the nation's health insurance initiatives.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, a 1994 appointee of President Bill Clinton, declared that Congress had the authority under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to enact the contentious 2010 law, which requires individuals to purchase health insurance starting in 2014. In rejecting an argument by the law's challengers, she said that an individual's decision not to purchase health insurance was an active choice impacting the cost of health insurance for everyone else.

In her 64-page ruling, Kessler wrote: "Both the decision to purchase health insurance and its flip side -- the decision not to purchase health insurance -- therefore relate to the consumption of a commodity: a health insurance policy ... Because of the cost-shifting effect, the individual decision to forgo health insurance, when considered in the aggregate, leads to substantially higher insurance premiums for those other individuals who do obtain coverage."

Kessler then wrote: "To put it less analytically, and less charitably, those who choose -- and Plaintiffs have made such a deliberate choice -- not to purchase health insurance will benefit greatly when they become ill, as they surely will, from the free health care which must be provided by emergency rooms and hospitals to the sick and dying who show up on their doorstep. In short, those who choose not to purchase health insurance will ultimately get a 'free ride' on the backs of those Americans who have made responsible choices to provide for the illness we all must face at some point in our lives."

A jurist with extensive experience handling terror law cases, Kessler now becomes the third federal trial judge -- and the third Clinton appointee -- to declare the core of the Affordable Care Act constitutional after reviewing the merits of the legal claims against it. She joins U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon in Virginia, who last December rejected a legal challenge to the new law by Liberty University, and U.S. District Judge George C. Steeh, who last October rejected another legal challenge in Michigan.

But two other federal trial judges -- both Republican appointees -- have declared the same provision of the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Last December, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson, an appointee of President George W. Bush presiding in Virginia, struck down the "individual mandate" provision in the new law as an improper attempt on the part of Congress to regulate what he called local and personal "inactivity." Last month, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, a 1983 appointee President Ronald Reagan sitting in senior status in Florida, went even further, tossing out the entire new law as a violation of the Commerce Clause.

This lack of consensus at the trial court level -- and the likelihood of more disagreement in the months ahead at the federal appeals court level -- virtually guarantees that the United States Supreme Court eventually will have to broker the dispute. Kessler said as much in her ruling: "The controversy surrounding this legislation is significant, as is the public's interest in the substantive reforms contained in the Act. It is highly likely that a decision by the United States Supreme Court will be required to resolve the constitutional and statutory issues which have been raised."

The Justice Department issued a statement Tuesday in the wake of the ruling: "This court found -- as two others have previously -- that the minimum coverage provision of the statute was a reasonable measure for Congress to take in reforming our health care system. At the same time, trial courts in additional cases have dismissed numerous challenges to this law on jurisdictional and other grounds. The Department will continue to vigorously defend this law in ongoing litigation."

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Steve Silva

Health care reform, as proposed, doesn't force Americans to purchase anything. It merely "taxes" those who don't have health insurance. The tax is modest, and, pays for the health care these individuals will inevitably incur. All this controversy, despite the constitutional legality of the Act, is created by those intent on derailing the measure for political gain. The GOP has an agenda: regain power no matter what!

February 27 2011 at 6:02 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I wonder what 'promote the general welfare' means?

February 24 2011 at 1:00 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Hospitals are not FREE. Living in this country is not FREE. If you don't have health insurance you are hurting everyone if you have to use a Hospital with NO insurances. Just like the government mandate you to pay taxes to live in this wonderful country. We should be mandated to carry insurance unless your name is Clark Kent aka superman.

February 23 2011 at 9:40 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

You are only required to have liability insurance on your car. You are not required to have homeowners insurance once you mortgage is paid off. The reason is that you are only required to have insurance when your driving puts other people at risk. When your home is not fully paid for the loss of the home is a loss to your mortgager in the amount of the unpaid balance of your loan. . When you do not have health insurance you only put yourself at risk. It a no brainer to not see the differnce in the reasons for mandated insurance. I don't know why it requires a law degree and years on the bench to see the differnce.

February 23 2011 at 6:05 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to joe's comment

You do not only put yourself at risk when you chose not to have health insurance. If you get sick and can not pay for care, hospitals, doctors and nurses must trat you. They can not do so for free. Yhe cost of your care is passed on to those of who are responsible through either higher costs for care or for insurance premiums for medical coverage which pays the higher costs of care. Sick people are not productive and may infect others. Your statement is true only if we quarantine and provide no care.

February 23 2011 at 7:04 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

You have considered this a headline for two days. When the judge ruled against Obamacare, you attempted to bury the story. News agency or propaganda machine?

February 23 2011 at 4:49 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

It is sad that the Federal Bench seems to be voting along Party lines rather than making reasoned judgments under the law. This is the inevitable outcome of all the partisan rhetoric. The Federal Courts, beginning with the Supreme Court has to get back to the law.

February 23 2011 at 4:07 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

They are not doing it to help peoiple - they are doing it to help their buddies in the insurance industry. then they will fine you for not playing along and that only helps the IRS. Then what jail at more expense to the taxpayers? Bad plan! Open your eyes people!

February 23 2011 at 3:51 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

You could use the exact same logic to force someone to buy a car, since if they are mass produced they are cheaper than if they had to be built one by one. You could also use the converse to forbid issuing health policies to sick people since their care drives everyone else's rates higher. I am not impressed.

February 23 2011 at 3:39 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

"the individual decision to forgo health insurance, when considered in the aggregate, leads to substantially higher insurance premiums for those other individuals who do obtain coverage."

I live here in MASS where we have mandatory healthcare My premiums went up to pay for people who cant afford healthcare. 93% of the people here in MASS have healthcare. It is a load of bull this decision. Mandatory healthcare is an economy killer. Our state budge is at least 300 million in the hole because it. I shudder to think what it will be on the national level.

February 23 2011 at 12:29 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

What the article FAILED to mention the suite that was thrown out was one that said mandated (forced) buy in was against certian religons beliefs of the Islamic, Jehovah Witnesses, Morman faiths.
As it stands Obama care HAS BEEN RULED AS A WHOLE UNCONSTITUTIONAL period end of story.

February 23 2011 at 12:29 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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