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Another lawsuit against ObamaCare survives a preliminary challenge

McCollumThe rulings keep rolling in on the constitutionality of the federal healthcare reform law. On Thursday, a federal judge in Florida refused to dismiss the lawsuit brought by a group of state attorneys general( led by Florida's Bill McCollum, at right), although he threw out several of the suit's lesser claims. (Here's the ruling, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.) That's the second such decision; a federal judge in Virginia held in August that the Commonwealth's attorney general could proceed with a similar lawsuit. On the flip side, a federal judge in Michigan ruled earlier this month against a lawsuit that had been brought by the Thomas More Law Center, declaring that the law's requirement to buy health insurance was constitutional.

The central issue in each of these cases is whether Congress exceeded its authority when it required virtually all American adults to obtain coverage or pay a penalty to the Internal Revenue Service. In Florida, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson agreed to let that question proceed to the next stage, where the legal and factual issues will receive a full airing.

In particular, he refused to dismiss the claim that the individual mandate violated the commerce clause of the Constitution and the 9th and 10th Amendments. Congress' bid to regulate economic inactivity was unprecedented, Vinson wrote, and even the Congressional Budget Office had questioned the constitutionality of requiring Americans to buy insurance:

[The] case law is instructive, but ultimately inconclusive because the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause have never been applied in such a manner before. The power that the individual mandate seeks to harness is simply without prior precedent....

As the nonpartisan CBO concluded sixteen years ago (when the individual mandate was considered, but not pursued during the 1994 national healthcare reform efforts): “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.” See Congressional Budget Office Memorandum, The Budgetary Treatment of an Individual Mandate to Buy Health Insurance, August 1994 (emphasis added).

Of course, to say that something is “novel” and “unprecedented” does not necessarily mean that it is “unconstitutional” and “improper.” There may be a first time for anything. But, at this stage of the case, the plaintiffs have most definitely stated a plausible claim with respect to this cause of action.

Vinson also refused to dismiss the plaintiffs' claim that the expansion of Medicaid in the law unconstitutionally commandeered state authority. The law seemed to give states a Hobson's choice, the judge wrote: either shoulder the burdens imposed by the expansion or stop participating in the Medicaid program altogether, sacrificing all the federal aid it provides to provide healthcare to the poor.

Similar claims about previous federal laws had gained little traction in the courts, Vinson noted, because other federal circuits routinely held that state authority wasn't commandeered by a federal program if a state could opt out. Yet he also observed that "there is a line somewhere between mere pressure and impermissible coercion." Because the 11th Circuit (which includes Florida) had yet to rule that state authority could not be commandeered by an optional program, Vinson wrote, he allowed the plaintiffs to proceed with the claim.

The attorneys general had also argued that the mandate amounted to an unconstitutional direct tax, while lawyers for the Obama administration argued that it was a legal use of Congress' extensive taxing power. Vinson tossed out both sides' arguments, ruling that the law's penalty for not obtaining insurance was just that -- a penalty, not a tax. He was particularly critical of the administration's argument, noting that the measure would have had an even tougher time getting through Congress had President Obama characterized it as a tax increase (in fact, Vinson tartly observed, Obama had said it was "absolutely not a tax").

Vinson also dismissed the plaintiffs' claims that the law was an unconstitutional interference with state sovereignty (based on the mandates the law would impose on the states as employers); that the state insurance exchanges created by the law commandeered state authority; and that the individual insurance mandate violated the due process clause of the 5th Amendment.

-- Jon Healey

Credit: AP Photo / Jason Behnken




Comments () | Archives (4)

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Pasquino Marforio


"Responding to a lawsuit brought by the Commonwealth of Virginia, claiming the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the new federal health-care law, is unconstitutional, the Obama administration said the Old Dominion didn't have standing to bring the suit in court.

Today, a federal judge rejected the U.S. government's argument. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has won a legal victory — albeit a procedural one — that may lead to a full hearing in October, The Washington Post reports.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson said that, "while this case raises a host of complex constitutional issues, all seem to distill to the single question of whether or not Congress has the power to regulate — and tax — a citizen's decision not to participate in interstate commerce."
Given the presence of some authority arguably supporting the theory underlying each side's position, this court cannot conclude at this stage that the complaint fails to state a cause of action.


Going to court against the US Government is, for the most part, a joke. The Government controls the courts and has unlimited funds(your tax dollars) to pour into whatever cause they see fit. Even if a case gets to the Supreme Court, a political ruling be issued based on how many liberal and conservatives are on the court. Will Rogers said it best "See they conducted experiments on convicts ... I don't know on what grounds they reason a man in jail is a bigger liar than one out of jail ... The chances are telling the truth is what got him there ... It would be a big aid to humanity, but it will never be, for already the politicians are up in arms against it ... It would wreck the very foundation on which our political government is run ... If you ever injected truth into politics you'd have no politics … Even the ministers are denouncing it now … Humanity is not yet ready for either real truth or real harmony.

Mitchell Young

I am trying to understand why the government can pry into my personal finances and force me to spend money (i.e. my time) to prevent me socializing the costs of not having insurance, when at the same time the government is enjoined against prohibiting behavior we know creates additional healthcare costs to the public.
I have in mind Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state sodomy laws. 2008 figures from the CDC show that 50% plus of new HIV cases are the result of male homosexual contact. That's about 25 x the rate that might be expected given the size of the 'at risk' population. (Much of the 'high risk' heterosexual activity which results in new HIV cases is already illegal, e.g. prostitution).
By the rationale of liberal healthcare advocates, the government should be able to force the individual into a course of action ( here, refraining from certain sexual activities) to avoid socialization of healthcare costs. After all, AIDS/HIV is hugely expensive to treat.
I am not advocating a return to sodomy laws. While Lawrence was a bad decision, I wouldn't support such laws if passed by legislatures -- the cost in privacy is too great to outweigh any gains in public health. What I am trying to point out is that modern liberalism is an inherently contradictory system of thought. The activities of some favored groups is granted 'constitutional' protection or even subsidized (see the soda controversy) despite known costs to society at large. The less favored, the less organized, the less powerful groups -- including the unorganized majority -- have our right to be left alone to spend our money as we see fit trampled.


Ok folks:
A man with no money and no insurance is rushed to the hospital in a life-threatening emergency situation. He stays three weeks. The cost is staggering …let’s say $150,000. (Actually that is very low.)

The hospital must admit him and treat him. That’s the law. So, who is going to pay? Doctors, nurses, medications etc have to be paid for, right?

Who coughs up the money? That is question no one wants to answer. The money does not appear like magic.

If the hospital absorbs the cost, they must compensate by increasing their prices for everything. Your premiums go up.

Now, if our sick man had been under a doctor’s care, maybe the emergency visit could have been prevented. So, do the math. But he will not go if he doesn’t have insurance. And while you are doing the math, what if he is married with a few kids and can no longer work? Your taxes will be paying for the assistance to his family. So add that cost in.

You will be paying for this man no matter what. Like it or not, we are all in this together. This is not about being compassionate, it is about being realistic. Even if the uninsured are left out the hospital doors to die, someone has to take the body and bury it. And that has to be paid for, too



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