Health care law overturned in Florida

A federal judge in Florida today ruled that federal health care reform passed by congress last year is unconstitutional. Specifically, he ruled that individuals cannot be forced to buy health insurance, which would be mandated in 2014.

Judge Roger Vinson became the second federal judge to rule this way. Two other federal judges have ruled that the law is constitutional. The Justice Department has already said it will appeal the decision.

If it was not already a given, it now becomes clear that ultimately the Supreme Court will have to decide the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers praised the decision, calling it a major victory for federalism and the limitation of federal power.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for federalism,” Suthers said in a prepared statement. “The judge’s well-reasoned order clearly lays out why the individual health insurance mandate included in the president’s health care overhaul law far exceeds the bounds of the federal government’s enumerated powers.”

“This ruling and other decisions from across the country all but assure that this critical constitutional question will eventually be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Suthers said. “This ruling also rebuts the contention among critics of the lawsuit that this question is somehow frivolous or without merit. To the contrary, this ruling underlines that this case confronts a significant constitutional question that could reshape how the federal government interacts with its citizens and the states on a wide variety of issues.”

Colorado is one of 28 states participating in this and other similar lawsuits. The National Federation of Independent Business also is a co-plaintiff on the multistate lawsuit. Colorado has not billed any hours or expended any money as part of its participation in the lawsuit, according to a press release issued today by Suthers.

Dede de Percin, executive director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said the ruling is neither surprising nor all that important.

“These lawsuits trying to block health care were intentionally filed in districts known to have ultraconservative judges, so we’ve won two and lost two and I consider that a victory.”

She noted that the decision did not include any injunctions stopping states from continuing to implement the reforms. “Until this gets to the Supreme Court, these decisions are a lot of smoke without any substance,” she said.

“It’s funny that some of the people in congress think their own health insurance plan is good enough for them, but too good for anyone else. the alternative to the reform is putting insurance companies back in charge of people’s health care,” she said.

Planned Parenthood also issued a statement criticizing the decision. It reads in part:

“The new health care law represents the greatest single advance for women’s access to health care in 45 years. It will expand access to health insurance for millions of women, and it also includes measures to make primary health care, including annual exams, preventive care, and reproductive care, more affordable. These measures promote the health of women by guaranteeing coverage of preventive care, such as lifesaving breast cancer screenings and immunizations with no co-pays. The law will also increase access to contraception for women, and potentially allow for all FDA-approved prescription contraception to be available without co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs. Offering prescription birth control with no co-pays would enable women to choose the method that works best for them, and help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. The new law will also put an end to discriminatory practices such as routinely charging women higher premiums than men, and denying coverage for so-called ‘pre-existing’ conditions such as breast cancer or even pregnancy.

In his decision, Vinson wrote, “It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause.”

You can read the entire decision here.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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