BREAKING NEWS... Just today, a federal judge in Florida ruled that the Obama administration's health care overhaul is unconstitutional, siding with 26 states that sued to block it.
Roger Vinson, a judge in the U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Fla., said in a ruling on State of Florida et al. vs. United States Department of Health and Human Services et al. (Case Number 3:2010-cv-00091-RV), that Congress has no authority under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution to enforce the “minimum essential coverage provision” in PPACA.
As we mentioned in our December eNewsletter, this debate appears destined to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. While two other federal judges had upheld the requirement that people buy health insurance or face penalties, Henry E. Hudson of the U.S. District Court in Richmond, Virginia ruled that the insurance mandate violates the Constitution.
In today's ruling, Vinson went even further than Judge Hudson and declared the entire health care law unconstitutional.
"This is obviously a very difficult task. Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the Act, Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution," Vinson wrote in his 78-page ruling.
President Barack Obama's administration had argued that the health care system was part of the interstate commerce system. They said the government can levy a tax penalty on Americans who decide not to purchase health insurance because all Americans are consumers of medical care.
But attorneys for the states said the administration was effectively forcing the states to participate in the health care overhaul by holding billions of Medicaid dollars hostage. The states also said the federal government is violating the Constitution by forcing a mandate on the states without providing money to pay for it.
If the PPACA minimum coverage provision takes effect in 2014 as enacted, it will require many people with incomes above a certain level who do not get health coverage from their employers to buy a minimum level of health coverage or else pay a penalty. The provision provides exceptions for individuals with religious objections to owning health coverage and for some individuals who cannot find affordable health coverage.
Health insurers have argued that they can provide affordable health coverage for all, without basing rates on health status, only if the government requires all people – including relatively young, healthy people – to have health coverage.
PPACA contains many provisions other than the minimum coverage mandate. Vinson says the entire act must be declared void because PPACA is not written in such a way that the coverage mandate can be considered separately from the rest of the act.
There is widespread sentiment for reducing the cost of health care and improving the quality, and the Florida case “is not about whether the Act is wise or unwise legislation,” Vinson says.
“This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications,” Vinson says. “At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled ‘The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.’”
Judge Vinson made headlines in December 2010 when he asked during oral arguments on the Florida case whether Congress had the authority to impose a PPACA broccoli-eating mandate.
Surely one of our former Presidents was offended by that, you know the one that wouldn't eat his broccoli.
Until next time,
AH Insurance Services, Inc.