Candice Miller for Congress, Michigan

Email Candice Miller Candice Miller on Facebook Subscribe to Candice Miller's RSS Feed

Another judge strikes down health care reform

by Candice Miller on February 3, 2011

Great News!

-Candice S. Miller

WASHINGTON – Yet another federal judge ruled today that the health care reform law passed by Congress last year is unconstitutional because it requires most Americans to get insurance coverage or pay a fine.
U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Fla., went further than a judge in Virginia did late last year by saying the individual mandate clause of the reform law cannot be severed from the rest of the legislation and therefore the entire bill is unconstitutional.
Vinson’s ruling does not overturn the law, however, meaning it remains in force until a higher court – most likely the U.S. Supreme Court – makes a decision on whether to take up the matter.
Michigan, through Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, (as well as his predecessor, Mike Cox) is a party to the Florida case, along with officials from 25 other states, the National Federation of Independent Business and a couple of private citizens.
Other judges – including one in Michigan – have upheld the health care reform law, but the rulings by Vinson in Florida and Henry Hudson in Virginia late last year raise questions about whether it will stand legal scrutiny.
At issue is the requirement that people without insurance – with certain limitations – get it or pay a percentage of their income as a fine. Vinson said that constitutes an unacceptable extension of Congress’ powers under the Commerce Clause that gives it the authority to regulate interstate commerce.
The bill’s supporters, President Barack Obama’s administration and Justice Department officials have argued that not buying insurance constitutes economic activity of a kind because, sooner or later, everyone needs health care. If people don’t get insurance, those uncompensated emergency costs are passed onto everyone else through insurance premiums and hospital bills – a kind of economic activity.
But Vinson agreed with the states’ arguments and said that economic activity can’t be construed to include a person’s not taking an affirmative step – such as buying insurance – or there would be no limit to Congress’ power to regulate.
“It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause,” he wrote.
He added that, if it were allowed to be the case, “It is not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do about anything it wanted,” including requiring “that people buy and consume broccoli at regular intervals.”
Vinson said in his opinion the mandate is the “lynchpin of the entire health reform effort” and that without it, Congress would have to revisit the entire law. He said it could not stand otherwise.
Republican opponents of the law sounded off, calling Vinson’s ruling a victory even if it doesn’t have an immediate effect.
“I have always believed that Obamacare exceeds the limits of the Constitution, costs too much and is funded with job-destroying new taxes,” said U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, a Harrison Township Republican. “I agree with Judge Vinson’s conclusion that the individual mandate including in Obamacare goes too far.”
Miller, like every other Republican member of the House of Representatives, voted in recent weeks to repeal the health care reform bill in its entirety. While that passed the Republican-led House, however, it is unlikely to advance in the Democratic-controlled Senate and, even if it did somehow, Obama would veto it.
The sweeping legislation opens up access to insurance coverage by setting up exchanges where people without coverage would buy it. Insurance companies would be prohibited from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions or from setting lifetime or annual benefit limits, and the federal government would provide subsidies to people who needed them to purchase coverage.
The mandate was seen as a necessary way to keep insurance costs down by spreading the risk among the young and old, the healthy and the infirm.
“I am confident that the new law is constitutional,” said U.S. Rep. Sander Levin of Royal Oak, the top-ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee and a leading proponent of the reform bill. “We in Congress must stay focused on continuing to implement a law that has already benefited millions of Americans.”
While some provisions have already taken effect, the individual mandate and state-run insurance exchanges would not kick in until 2014.

Previous post:

Next post: