A Pensacola judge ruled Thursday that a challenge to President Obama’s health care overhaul can move forward, deciding in a 65-page ruling that the constitutionality of two aspects of the new plan — a mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or face a fine, and an expansion of Medicaid — are in question.
The lawsuit, brought by Attorney General Bill McCollum and 19 other state attorneys general, along with the National Federation of Independent Businesses, was heralded Thursday by McCollum as a victory for the average citizen:
This ruling is a victory for the States, small businesses and the American people. It is the first step to having the individual mandate declared unconstitutional and upholding state sovereignty in our federal system and means this case will go forward to the summary judgment hearing that the court has set for December 16th.
Congress has no constitutional authority to force the individual mandate and its penalty on Americans who cannot afford or do not wish to have health insurance. Regardless of whether the Obama Administration argues it is a tax or regulation, it is an unjust burden on the American public.
Furthermore, our system of federalism under the U.S. Constitution ensures that federal government cannot bully the States by forcing us into a no win decision. Obamacare imposes a massive expansion of the Medicaid entitlement program on the States – a financial burden that States and taxpayers do not want and cannot afford.
This ruling confirms the significance of this lawsuit protecting against the federal health care act’s intrusions on individual liberty and limited government.
Democratic Senate contender Kendrick Meek offered his own statement on the ruling, asserting it is simply a victory for the extreme right while using the opportunity to take a few swipes at his opponents in November’s election:
Today’s decision is the wrong one for middle-class Florida families. It allows the Tea Party and the extreme right to continue misleading the American public about what health care reform means to everyday families. I’m proud to say I supported health care reform that eliminated denial of coverage for preexisting conditions, lowered the price of prescription drugs for seniors, and allowed young adults to stay on their parents’ health care plans until age 26.
This ridiculous lawsuit shows why Floridians need to take a stand in this election. In November, Floridians can stand up for eliminating abuses that allow insurance companies to deny care for middle-class families by voting for Kendrick Meek. Or they can stand with big health insurance companies and vote for Marco Rubio. But they can’t vote for Charlie Crist, because no one knows where he stands. Crist was a cheerleader for Bill McCollum’s lawsuit to block health care reform, but now, who knows?
Last week, a federal judge in Michigan dismissed a similar lawsuit challenging the insurance mandate, as reported by our sister site The Michigan Messenger:
Judge George Steeh ruled that the authority to pass the health care reform act is found within the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The plaintiffs had argued that the decision not to purchase health insurance is inaction rather than action and that it is unconstitutional to punish inaction. The court rejected that reasoning, noting that whether one has health insurance or not one is inevitably going to take part in the health care system:
The health care market is unlike other markets. No one can guarantee his or her health, or ensure that he or she will never participate in the health care market. Indeed, the opposite is nearly always true. The question is how participants in the health care market pay for medical expenses – through insurance, or through an attempt to pay out of pocket with a backstop of uncompensated care funded by third parties.
This phenomenon of cost- shifting is what makes the health care market unique. Far from “inactivity,” by choosing to forgo insurance plaintiffs are making an economic decision to try to pay for health care services later, out of pocket, rather than now through the purchase of insurance, collectively shifting billions of dollars, $43 billion in 2008, onto other market participants. As this cost-shifting is exactly what the Health Care Reform Act was enacted to address, there is no need for metaphysical gymnastics.
Late Thursday, Democratic operative Stephanie Cutter, who’s been tapped by the Obama Administration to help articulate the benefits of the new health plan, wrote in a White House blog post that opponents of reform, having failed legislatively, are turning to the courts for retribution:
This is nothing new. We saw this with the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act – constitutional challenges were brought to all three of these monumental pieces of legislation, and all of those challenges failed. So too will the challenge to health reform.
Today, a judge in Florida dismissed four of the six claims in the Attorneys General suit, and issued a procedural ruling allowing two claims to move forward. As the judge noted in his opinion, today’s ruling was not a decision on the merits of the constitutional claims in the case. Such a ruling will come only after the judge has had the “benefit of additional argument and all evidence in the record that may bear on the outstanding issues.”
While a hearing before U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson’s court is set for Dec. 16, it’s likely the case won’t be argued before the Supreme Court until sometime in 2012. A similar lawsuit is pending in Virginia.