KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Federal Court Judge In Florida Rules Health Law Unconstitutional

Bloomberg: "U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Florida, declared the law unconstitutional in a ruling today. ... Vinson's ruling may be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta. A federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, is already slated in May to hear challenges to two conflicting federal court rulings in that state, one of which upheld the legislation while the other invalidated part of it. The U.S. Supreme Court may ultimately be asked to consider the issue" (Harris, 1/31).

See Full Text of Decision

The Washington Post: "Vinson stopped short of granting a request by the plaintiffs to suspend the law pending further appeals, so in the short run, his ruling is unlikely to delay its ongoing implementation by the Obama Administration. Justice Department officials immediately said they plan to appeal the ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Aizenman, 1/31).

The New York Times: "In a silver lining for the Obama administration, the judge rejected a second claim that the new law violates state sovereignty by requiring states to pay for a fractional share of a Medicaid expansion that is scheduled for 2014. [Judge Vinson] dismissed the contention that states were being illegally coerced by the federal government. He said they always have the option, however impractical, to withdraw from Medicaid, a joint state and federal insurance program for those with low-incomes" (Sack, 1/31).  

CNN: "Monday's ruling came in the most closely watched of the two dozen challenges to the law. Florida along with 25 states had filed a lawsuit last spring, seeking to dismiss a law critics had labeled 'Obamacare'" (1/31).

MSNBC: Vinson, "a Reagan appointee serving in Pensacola, Florida, ruled that key components of the law are unconstitutional and that the entire law 'must be declared void.' ... While the lawsuit addressed in Vinson's ruling is the largest of its kind – with 26 states having signed on – today's decision is likely just one more step in the law's march to the United States Supreme Court" (1/31).

The Associated Press: "Obama administration attorneys had argued that health care is 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. ... Opponents of the health overhaul praised the decision Monday afternoon. Democrats just as quickly slammed the decision.
'This lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt by those who want to raise taxes on small businesses, increase prescription prices for seniors and allow insurance companies to once again deny sick children medical care,' Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a prepared statement" (Nelson, 1/31).

The Wall Street Journal: "In his ruling, ... Vinson, a Republican appointee, said that the law's requirement to carry insurance or pay a fee 'is outside Congress' Commerce Clause power, and it cannot be otherwise authorized by an assertion of power under the Necessary and Proper Clause. It is not constitutional'" (Adamy, 1/31).

Slate: The key paragraph of Vinson's decision is as follows: "'Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void. This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications. 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'" (Weigel, 1/31).

Kaiser Health News analysis: "The consensus is the Democratic appointed judges uphold the law and the Republican appointed judges strike it down – so far. We have two Clinton appointees upholding it ... and then we have two Republican appointees, Judge Vinson today, and Judge Henry Hudson of Richmond a few weeks ago saying it's unconstitutional. Now I don't claim that pattern is going to uphold all the way up to the Supreme Court and that the law's going to get struck down 5-4 because there are more Republicans. I actually would probably bet – not a lot – but bet on it being upheld in court" (Taylor, 1/31).

Read the entire decision here.


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