On Monday, yet another federal judge ruled that the individual mandate under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. This is not particularly surprising news, since it seems the issue is destined to ultimately be resolved before the Supreme Court.
However, two things about the ruling surprised me:
1. How well written the opinion is. Even with all the legalese, the ruling written by Florida District Court Judge Robert Vinson is truly readable and lovely. I’m not really one for legal writing (I don’t even like John Grisham much), but I read all 78 pages of Vinson’s ruling. At some points, as when he invokes the founders, it’s even quite moving.
"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. If Congress can penalize 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," Vinson wrote.
That — no matter where you sit on the legality of the individual mandate — is some great writing.
2. That Vinson declared PPACA in its entirety, not just the individual mandate, unconstitutional. Unlike his Virginia counterpart, Henry E. Hudson, who only struck down PPACA’s requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance, Vinson ruled that PPACA on the whole is illegal.
"Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void,” Vinson wrote. “This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications. At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."
However, Vinson also makes a point to say that health care reform still must be high on the nation’s to-do list: "That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and inequities in our health care system. The health care market is more than one sixth of the national economy, and without doubt Congress has the power to reform and regulate this market. That has not been disputed in this case. The principal dispute has been about how Congress chose to exercise that power here."
Vinson certainly said a mouthful there. Share your thoughts on the ruling in the comments.
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