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Healthcare Reform Continues As Judge Relents

A federal judge who’d ruled healthcare reform was unconstitutional and that his decision as a federal judge was the equivalent of an injunction has relented. Healthcare reform can continue in the states, pending appellate and Supreme Court review.

“The sooner this issue is finally decided by the Supreme Court, the better off the entire nation will be,” wrote federal judge Roger E. Vinson, who’d decided that the healthcare reform act’s mandate that people buy insurance or face penalties overextended Congress’ powers under the commerce clause of the constitution.

One reason for granting a stay, despite his previous clear intent that healthcare reform cease, includes his statement (on page 18) that:

“Can (or should) I enjoin and halt implementation of the Act in a state where one of its federal courts has held it to be Constitutional? In addition, many of the plaintiff states have publicly represented that they will immediately halt implementation of the Act in light of my declaratory judgment, while at least eight plaintiff states (as identified by the defendants in their motion and reply) have suggested that, in an abundance of caution, they will not stop implementing the Act pending appeal. In addition to these apparent disagreements among the plaintiff states, there is even disagreement within the plaintiff states as to whether the implementation should continue pending appeal. For example, while the plaintiffs (a group that includes the Attorney General of Washington) have requested that I enjoin the defendants from implementing the Act, the Governor of Washington has just filed an amicus brief specifically opposing that request.”

The decision gives the Obama administration seven days to file an appeal against his decision, which a U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson said the administration intends to do. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Accountable Care Act Unconstitutional? The Fate Of Americans’ Health

A Florida’s judge’s ruling that the Accountable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional doesn’t resolve the underlying constitutional issue (which will ultimately have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court) but it has introduced new uncertainty for the $2.3 trillion health care industry, and emboldened the law’s critics to push even harder for repeal (not that they weren’t trying already).

The Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) health blog reports that “states and companies that are supposed to be implementing the law trying to figure out what to do next. The WSJ reports that the 26 states that are parties to the suit are considering whether to ask the Supreme Court to take up the case now, before it has fully wended its way through the legal system. The New York Times (NYT) quotes the governor of Florida as saying that until the fate of the law is clear, “we’re not going to spend a lot of time and money” to implement it. Other states, even if part of the suit, will move ahead,” the NYT says. The WSJ also reports that most health care companies plan to “stay the course” and continue to plan for the law’s implementation. Meanwhile, the Obama administration says that the judge’s ruling will have no effect on the implementation of the law or the requirement that states (including those who brought the suit) comply with its mandates and claims that most constitutional experts agree with the administration.

Now, I am not a lawyer, so I don’t have any expertise on the legal arguments over the ACA’s constitutionality. For those of you who want to hear more about the constitutional questions from people who might actually know what they are talking about, I recommend this Health Care Blog post from attorney Mark Hall, a critic of the Florida judge’s ruling. He notes that “at least half of the relevant part of the opinion is devoted to discussing what Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson and other Founding Fathers would have thought about the individual mandate” (Judge Vinson concluded that they would not have approved of it) but “the same Founders wrote a Constitution that allowed the federal government to take property from unwilling sellers and passive owners, when needed to construct highways, bridges and canals.” The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein — a supporter of the Affordable Care Act — has posted an excellent overview of what legal experts are saying about the ruling, pro and con, including a link to a posting that argues Judge Vinson ruled correctly. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

The Secret To The Virginia Healthcare Decision

Unconstitutional? How can the mandate to buy health insurance be unconstitutional? It must be some kind of misguided resistance to progressivism. Or maybe it’s someone finally taking a stand against a power-grabbing government program.

But it’s actually about something else entirely. And if you don’t know what it is, you won’t understand why the Virginia court ruled the way it did. Here’s the secret:

The U.S. Constitution grants to the federal government certain powers. These are things like raising an army, controlling currency and establishing courts. It also gives it the power to regulate interstate commerce, through something called the “Commerce Clause.” Everything else is the domain of the states.

Notice that the Commerce Clause only gives the federal government power over interstate commerce. The word “interstate,” in 1789, was probably easy to understand. Since the original 13 states were more like little countries, than part of one big country, the idea of trading goods from one state to another was identifiable as a special kind of thing. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Judge Rules Healthcare Reform “Unconstitutional”

A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that healthcare reform is unconstitutional and expects the Obama administration to honor that ruling while it’s being appealed. But states and private companies are continuing to plan and budget for it nonetheless.

The court ruled that Congress exceeded its constitutional powers in compelling Americans to buy health insurance. Judges elsewhere have ruled the law is valid or dismissed the cases on procedural grounds, while a judge in Florida will hear another case later this week.

In the meantime, though, employers and healthcare companies have to continue adjusting to the reform law’s many provisions. States will continue to set up their health insurance exchanges, and they’ve already budgeted for the additional 16 million people who will qualify for Medicaid under the law. And the Obama administration is unlikely to stop what it’s doing, since many of the provisions won’t take effect until 2014.

A key of the lawsuit is “economic inactivity.” The ruling says that while Congress can regulate interstate commerce, it can’t regulate…well, non-commerce, in this case the decision not to buy health insurance. The judge’s decision is online. (Politico, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, MSNBC)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

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