Florida Judge Rules Affordable Care Act Unconstitutional
Judge C. Roger Vinson of the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida has ruled on Monday that the federal health reform law, specifically called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is unconstitutional. Judge Vinson agrees with plaintiffs in that the mandate exceeds Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce, a condition known as the “Commerce Clause.”
While Judge Vinson is the second federal judge to strike down the Affordable Care Act, he is the first to overturn the entire healthcare reform law. Two other rulings have been in favor of proceeding with the law as it currently stands.
The Florida judge finds the healthcare reform law to have “too many moving parts” to separate the constitutional from the unconstitutional. And because the act does not have a severability clause that prevents the entire law from being invalidated if one portion is deemed illegal, “the entire act must be declared void.”
Vinson agrees with the plaintiffs complaint that a law cannot be used to force anyone to obtain health insurance coverage or face a fine. This requirement would not take effect until 2014, should the law ultimately stay in place.
Other issues set forth in the lawsuit state that the cost of Medicaid expansion, set to begin in 2014, will overwhelm the states financially, although Vinson did not agree with this complaint, stating that would be difficult to determine and that states are not forced to participate in the federal Medicaid program.
While Judge Vinson has made his ruling on Constitutional legality, he did not issue an injunction to prevent the law from moving forward. The next step will likely be to move the issue to the US Supreme Court.