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Unconstitutional Mandate: Florida Judge Calls for Repeal of Entire Health Care Law

| February 1, 2011

Grounded. (© João Paglione)

Keith Laind and Michael Peltier
News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE–The federal health care law requiring Americans to buy health insurance unlawfully expands the powers to Congress by forcing consumers to buy something they may not want, a Florida federal judge “reluctantly” ruled on Monday in a challenge by Florida and 25 other states.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson rejected the lynchpin of federal efforts to change the way health care is delivered in the United States, saying Congress cannot compel people to purchase health insurance.

“It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place,” Vinson wrote in ruling invalid the required purchase of health insurance.

“I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the act with the individual mandate,” Vinson wrote.

Despite finding the law, Vinson refused a request by Florida and other states to stop the federal government from moving forward while the case winds its way through an appellate process that will likely lead to the U.S. Supreme Court. Keeping the law in effect, pending appeals, means sections already in force will continue to be. The White House said it will proceed with planning for the law to go into effect.

In December, Vinson heard three hours of testimony in the lawsuit, with the plaintiffs – two private citizens and the National Federation of Independent Business, in addition to the 26 states – that the sweeping change to the $2.5 trillion U.S. health-care system oversteps constitutional limits on federal power and would force massive spending on hard-pressed state governments.

Vinson said on Monday that the secondary complaint of the states’– that the law would greatly expand their obligation to pay for Medicaid patients – was legitimately within the federal government’s reach. But the individual mandate was clearly not, he said.

“It should be emphasized that while the individual mandate was clearly “necessary and essential” to the Act as drafted, it is not “necessary and essential” to health care reform in general,” Vinson wrote. “It is undisputed that there are various other (Constitutional) ways to accomplish what Congress wanted to do.”

news service of florida

Florida was the lead plaintiff among the states in the suit, which was started by former Attorney General Bill McCollum, who filed it the day after the law passed. The current attorney general, Pam Bondi, inherited the case – but did so enthusiastically, campaigning on a promise to continue it.

“We all know we need health care reform; this is not the way to do it,” Bondi said after Vinson’s ruling. “It’s unconstitutional. It’s a violation of our rights… It’s about our liberty. It’s about more than health care.”

Vinson’s ruling was immediately hailed by groups that have called the law, dubbed by critics as “ObamaCare,” an overreach.

“ObamaCare is an unprecedented and unconstitutional infringement on the liberty of the American people,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement released immediately after the ruling. “Patients should have more control over health care decisions than a federal government that is spending money faster than it can be printed.”

Vinson’s ruling is the second time a federal judge has ruled against all or portions of the law enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2010. A federal judge in Virginia struck down the measure, also ruling that the individual mandate was unconstitutional. Federal officials, however, pointed out that the record is mixed – the law has also been upheld in a couple of other challenges.

Still, critics of the law said Vinson’s ruling should be a signal for Congress to readdress the issue.

“With two straight federal courts ruling ObamaCare unconstitutional this sends a clear message to the United States Senate that it should follow the action of the House and repeal the health care law,” Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island said in a statement.

“Now small business owners can plan on creating jobs rather than figure out how to comply with the federal health care act,” said Bill Herrle, Florida director for the National Federatation of Independent Business.

U.S. Department of Justice officials said they will appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which has jurisdiction over cases originating in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

“We strongly disagree with the court’s ruling today and continue to believe – as other federal courts have found – that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional,” DOJ spokesperson Tracy Schmaler said. “There is clear and well-established legal precedent that Congress acted within its constitutional authority in passing this law and we are confident that we will ultimately prevail on appeal.”

The Center for American Progress, a liberal leaning Washington, D.C.-based group also blasted Vinson’s ruling as “judicial activism,” flipping a common Republican refrain when judges rule against legislation that has been passed by legislative bodies. That charge is common in Florida where Republican lawmakers have repeatedly railed against judges who invalidate laws passed by elected officials.

“For all of my colleagues on the conservative side who criticized activist judges for their lack of deference to the legislative and executive branches of government, I hope they’ll be equally as critical of this decision,” said CAP Chief Operating Officer Needra Tanden, who worked on crafting the legislation.

Walter Dellinger, chair of the Appellate Practice at the Los Angeles-based O’Melveny & Meyers law firm, added that Vinson’s decision was reminiscent of early legal verdicts against the Social Security Act in the 1930s.

“I think it will fare no better,” Dellinger said. “Lower courts routinely strike down landmark legislation before it’s upheld,” he said, noting cases involving Social Security, racial segregation and the Voting Rights Act.

“Under this view, Congress has no power to enact a minimum wage,” he added.

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25 Responses for “Unconstitutional Mandate: Florida Judge Calls for Repeal of Entire Health Care Law”

  1. Jack says:

    Paving the way for single payer!

  2. John Inc says:

    I wonder how Judge Vinson would square this opinion with a case against state mandated auto insurance? Should we also dispose of auto insurance as well? Or is it that auto insurance covers the damage you do to other people (including death) whereas health insurance covers yourself (hopefully protecting you from death)? Or are people just more committed to party than health?

  3. Ken Dodge says:

    Auto insurance is mandated for those who drive. Under this law, health insurance is mandated for those who breathe.

  4. Jenn Kuiper says:

    Because all who breathe will at one point or another need to see a doctor or end up in the emergency room on our tax dollars.

  5. palmcoaster says:

    Strip Judge Vinson and all the others with the same idea from their health insurance forced paid by the over 11 million American unemployed and the many more millions of Americans that pay taxes on their part time wages without any health care coverage for them and their children. Its ridiculous that we all have to pay these oligarchs health insurance when they denied ours.

  6. Outsider says:

    Palmcoaster: noone is denying your health insurance. You can have whatever you want to pay for, or find a job that offers insurance.

  7. Rick G says:

    It is still amazing to me how Republicans are so ardently against insuring little kids with pre-existing conditions, allowing parents to keep their kids on their insurance until age 26, helping seniors with plugging the donut hole for prescription drugs that George W. Bush rammed through during his reign and making sure health insurers don’t drop you because you get sick. I am against the provision in question… mandatory health insurance but that can be remedied like Jack said above, with a single payer system. Governor Scott should keep his mouth shut on all health issues since his company skimmed a ton of taxpayer dollars when he ran a health insurance company. I guess he doesn’t get the fact that right now health insurance companies decide what kind of care one gets. Not the individual.

  8. PC MAN says:

    After a lay off in 2003 I was offered the chance to continue my insurance under Cobra, the cost was $780.00 a month. I had a choice to pay for insurance or my mortgage. I kept my home. As a diabetic there was no insurance offered anywhere else because of a preexisting condition. So no Outsider you can’t have whatever you want. If you want to say “sucks to be you” go ahead and say that, but don’t imply everyone is lazy and unmotivated.

  9. Outsider says:

    They didn’t have to remake the entire healthcare system to rectify your situation, PC Man.

  10. Outsider – this overhaul or whatever you want to call it was/is itself an embarrassment, as the administration clearly lacked the balls to do the only thing that makes sense – a single payer system, but I guess that smack of socialism to the morons who confuse all men created equal with every man for himself. John Locke is spinning in his grave, justifiably, I’d guess. So we spend the most for the least amount of actual care on people, and people like you firmly believe that it’s ‘fixable’ on an individual level. I do find it ironic that so many die hard individualists end up with their hand out in one way, shape or form. I guess following the illustrious example of Ayn Rand to the letter…

  11. Christie2012 says:

    Liberals should be happy with this Judge, He was appointed by Ronald Reagan, The same guy that the media wants to compare Obama too. Just last week in his SOTU address, the press said he sounded so “Reaganess”

  12. PC MAN says:

    Reagan was an awful president. Ran up huge deficits, created millions of poor people, permanently divided the country. It’s incredible what havoc a diseased mind (Alzheimer’s) can create. Somebody should have issued a Silver alert before he drove this country into a ditch.

  13. val jaffee says:

    Jack – I believe this is what will happen and rightly so. I read somewhere that since the health care bill has passed, insurance companies have been fanatically raising premiums to beat the 2014 deadline mandate. So while individuals who were initially denied coverage under the pre-existing rule are allowed to buy in, the cost is very outrageous, effecitvely pricing them out. The public option would make it affordable, which is the whole idea to begin with – Affordable Healthcare – If we are to be FORCED BY LAW to buy insurance then it needs to be affordable for us except the elites but they probably get theirs for free already along with their tax breaks and bail outs, all part of the entitlement package, while ‘we the poor and exploited and weak’ are still getting kicked to the curb as return on our contribution!

  14. W.Ryan says:

    Is this the ” Right to Life” party state? A single payer system affords the right to live. Is it so hard to help air breathing Citizens stay healthy? I hope we’re on the road to a single payer system!!!

  15. John Coffey says:

    All of the people making these decisions are covered by health insurance paid by the public. They enjoy the benefits that they want to restrict the public from receiving. I think the only way to solve this problem is to eliminate the coverage for all government employees and see how they like a private system. If this was to happen the problems with health care would become the countries number one priority and would be fixed overnight.

  16. palmcoaster says:

    Yes OUTSIDER no one denies health care to the ones that didn’t reach their SS retirement yet. But over 11 million unemployed can’t afford the $800 and over a month premium neither all the others that complete a total of over 34 million women, children and men uninsured because they are not covered by their part time jobs or plain can’t afford the thousands in premiums. Yeah no one denies it, if they can afford to pay the gouging. By the way I do not speak for myself but I have compassion for my country men women and children that go without it! And totally agree with Mr. Coffey, as I suggested, cut these top of the line health benefits to all politicians, judges or government officials that denied the very benefit to Americans that are forced to pay for them and fore sure then, they will approve health care for all. Just do it now, as I know Nancy Pelosi mentioned the proposal already. By the way Outsider seems to be so “out of context” with the sad reality of millions of Americans.

  17. Outsider says:

    Well, while you’re calling your elected representatives demanding their healthcare benefits be revoked, you should also demand that federal prisoners, one of whom kidnapped a teenage girl and buried her alive in a box to die, be denied private jet transportation to the best medical clinics in the country for their ailments. I don’t think it was the likes of Sheriff Joe Arpaio or any other conservative that instituted this policy. Sounds like liberalism at it’s best.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Outsider, where and when did you read about that? If so true, cut that also, big waste there.

  19. Outsider says:

    I didn’t read about it; I was a party to it. No, I wasn’t the prisoner either. The point is, it’s many of these great liberal ideas that created the “crisis” in the first place. For example, this wonderful idea that noone can be denied treatment at an E.R, even if it’s two gang bangers who shot each other over someone wearing the wrong color shirt or drugs. This happens all the time, costing millions of dollars that could have been spent on people who worked hard and did the right thing all their life. My sister works as an R.N. And drug addicts come in all the time threatening to complain she mistreats them when they can’t get their drugs. The hospital doesn’t want any complaints so they just comply with their demands. This encourages them to come back, taking up needed space and resources, forcing up the cost of care for everyone. My wife did part of her nursing internship at a free clinic in the poor section of Daytona and another portion at the local E.R. Some people would still go to the E.R. For minor ailments, simply because it was closer. But, alas, because of the ever-do-gooders’ great ideas, they couldn’t turn them away. So you see, many of the problems are caused by people being given everything they want at no cost to them.

  20. Jack says:

    @ Outsider:The ER law you refer to, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), was the largest expansion of government mandated health care since Medicare and it was passed and signed into law by your Republican free-market, less regulation, lower taxes president, Ronald Raygun. So to say it was some liberal idea is a lie. My point is the ‘gubmint’ has been mandating health coverage for the past 25 years, nothing new.

  21. Kyle Russell says:

    The early United States Congress passed a law that required all able-bodied male citizens to buy an gun and ammunition, as all were members of the militia.

    Just saying.

  22. Outsider says:

    Yes Jack, and now we’re all paying the price: a “broken” healthcare system. Emergency rooms are closing as a result of this act and the various modifications made to it. And I would remind you Reagan did not create the law; in 1986 Congress was controlled by the Democrats. Reagan would have signed it into law. Of course, if he didn’t, he would have been demagogued for “killing poor people.” I will not defend anyone, regardless of their party, for their part in destroying our healtchare system, including George W. Bush, creator of the massive, unfunded prescription drug coverage bill. Regardless, some people just don’t understand that this country is beyond broke, and cannot afford to give everyone everything. I understand many people have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and I would support helping out our deserving fellow Americans. However, years of supporting the lazy and unmotivated, and promoting poverty through “compassion” come with a price: we now can’t take care of the people who deserve it.

  23. PC MAN says:

    I got the felling Outsider is a talk radio listener. All of his “stories” sound like talk radio bullshit stories where welfare people ride around in Cadillacs but Joe Sixpack gets the shaft. Never any facts, just Grade A bullshit stories that get passed back and forth by bigots.

  24. w.ryan says:

    Let’s forget all this rhetoric and get to what’s important. People! Going around in circles doesn’t move us forward. “Humanism” is where we need to be. Why would helping people be a bad thing? Being healthy and staying healthy is a right and should be an emphasis for all Americans across political lines. The politics of this is ridiculous. People first!

  25. Outsider says:

    PC Man, I’m sorry you can’t deal with facts. The private jet story is absolutely true; you want to claim it’s BS but I was there. A convicted kidnapper who buried his female teenage victim alive was flown from prison, with four guards, to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota for brain cancer treatment. All details aside, how would you rate the success of this “war on poverty?” After decades of it, has it eliminated poverty? Has it reduced the number of people living in squalor? Has it reduced the poverty rate? You be the judge. I say it has only created more people dependent on the government, and the numbers prove me right.

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