A US court in Florida has struck down President Barack Obama’s health care reform legislation, ruling that the requirement for individuals to purchase insurance is ‘unconstitutional’ and is too central to making the law function.
The White House said it will appeal a Florida judge’s ruling that last year’s health-care overhaul overstepped limits on congressional power by compelling people to buy insurance.
Giving a major blow to the historic ‘Health Care Reform Act’ which was signed by Obama last year, Judge Roger Vinson, a district judge in Pensacola, Florida, accepted the argument presented by state attorneys general – all Republicans – that the new law violated people’s rights by forcing them to buy health insurance by 2014 or face a penalty.
“I must conclude that the individual mandate and the remaining provisions are all inextricably bound together in purpose and must stand or fall as a single unit,” said Judge Vinson, who on Monday became the second federal judge in two months to rule against the individual mandate.
The Congress does not have the power to compel an individual to purchase insurance, he said.
“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.
“If Congress can penalise a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain for it would be “difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power” and we would have a Constitution in name only.
Surely this is not what the founding fathers could have intended,” he wrote.
The judgement, which was immediately opposed by the White House was cheered by the opposition Republican party, which after gaining majority in the House of Representatives repealed the bill from the House this year.
“Today’s ruling – issued by Judge Vinson in the Northern District of Florida – is a plain case of judicial overreaching,” wrote the White House healthcare messaging guru Stephanie Cutter in a blog post.
“We don’t believe this kind of judicial activism will be upheld and we are confident that the Affordable Care Act will ultimately be declared constitutional by the courts,” he said.
“This ruling is well out of the mainstream of judicial opinion. Twelve federal judges have already dismissed challenges to the constitutionality of the health reform law, and two judges – in the Eastern District of Michigan and Western District of Virginia – have upheld the law.
In one other case, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia issued a very narrow ruling on the constitutionality of the health reform law’s “individual responsibility” provision and upheld the rest of the law, he said.
[via The Telegraph (UK), Yahoo! News, Bloomberg and Washington Post]