Judge in 20-plus State Attorney General suit expresses skepticism on mandate

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December 20, 2010

PENSACOLA, Florida: The White House suffered what many political analysts considered to be a rather embarrassing upset in the litigative battle over the constitutionality of the newly enacted federal health care reform measure last week. On Monday, December 13th, 2010, Federal judge Henry Hudson ruled that portions of the Affordable Patient Protection Act of 2009, also known as the federal health care reform law, were unconstitutional.[1] Specifically, he had deemed the requirement that all individuals purchase health care coverage under the "individual mandate" exceeded "the constitutional boundaries of congressional power."[2] Since the "individual mandate" "collects most of the money that is supposed to flow into the system from millions of additional participants," analysts contended, the loss of this portion of the law makes its execution "severely compromised and could rock the foundation of other provisions in the legislation."[3]

Administrative officials for President Barack Obama had been hoping that another federal suit, this one having been filed by a coalition of twenty-plus state attorneys general, would produce a more favorable outcome for the sweeping reform bill. Early observations from the case, however, are not optimistic for the federal government. While Federal judge Clyde Roger Vinson expressed skepticism over the states' argument "that the law forces states into a costly expansion of their Medicaid insurance programs for the poor," he was quite sympathetic to that claim that the mandate forcing all American citizens to purchase health insurance violates the Constitution.[4] Vinson remarked that "the individual mandate [would be] “a great leap” on the notion of economic activity that falls within the Commerce Clause’s parameters" should the Supreme Court adopt that as a constitutional basis for the law.[5]

Outgoing Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who first filed suit against the federal government in March 2010 after the United States House of Representatives narrowly passed House Resolution 3590 - The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, argue that the law unfairly punishes Americans for doing nothing in requiring them to purchase health insurance.[6] Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, whose state has also joined in the suit, conjectured that the federal health care law "is the biggest encroachment upon our freedom that Congress has ever levied and if Congress has the power to force Americans to go out and buy something, Americans will lose their freedom."[7] Other states named in the case include Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, and Mississippi, among others. With the influx of Republican state officials replacing Democratic predecessors, specifically in states such as Kansas, Ohio, and Oklahoma, the number of participants is expected to expand in the coming year.

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