Federal judge finds health care reform act unconstitutional

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] on Monday struck down [opinion, PDF] the health care reform law [HR 3590 text; JURIST news archive] as unconstitutional. The lawsuit was joined by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) [association website] and was filed [JURIST report] last March. The suit challenged the constitutionality of the health care reform law and sought an injunction and declaratory relief. Judge Roger Vinson held that requiring all Americans over the age of 18 to have health insurance violated the Constitution by exceeding Congress' Commerce Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] power:

I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate. That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and inequities in our health care system. The health care market is more than one sixth of the national economy, and without doubt Congress has the power to reform and regulate this market. That has not been disputed in this case. The principal dispute has been about how Congress chose to exercise that power here.
Vinson found that the individual mandate is "unconstitutional and not severable," declaring the entire act void. The decision may be appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website].

The health care reform law is the subject of numerous legal challenges across the country. A Virginia appeals court is scheduled to hear challenges to two conflicting lower-court rulings in May—one upholding the legislation and the other invalidating part of it. In December, a judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] ruled that the individual mandate provision is unconstitutional [JURIST report] but left the remainder of the law intact. Earlier that month, a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia [official website] dismissed [JURIST report] a lawsuit challenging a provision of the health care reform law. In October, a federal judge in Michigan ruled [JURIST report] that the law is constitutional under the Commerce Clause as it addresses the economic effects of health care decisions, and that it does not represent an unconstitutional direct tax.

 

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