Florida federal judge rules healthcare reform law unconstitutional

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Florida federal judge rules healthcare reform law unconstitutional
Florida federal judge rules healthcare reform law unconstitutional

U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson of Florida ruled Monday that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional because it requires most Americans to purchase individual health insurance.

Proponents of healthcare reform argue that the so-called “individual mandate” is necessary to help fund other key provisions of the reform, such as the CLASS Act (the long-term care insurance program) and the ban on denying patients coverage for pre-existing conditions. The CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Support) program aims to help finance long-term care for workers who become disabled. The opt-out program is expected to go into effect in 2012.

In his 78-page ruling, Vinson wrote: “Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void. This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications.”

The law, however, will remain in effect, he said, until all appeals can be exhausted. Many observers believe the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately will settle the issue.

The lawsuit was filed in Florida shortly after the reform act was passed into law. Since then, 25 states and the National Federation of Independent Business joined the lawsuit. The states and the NFIB argued the law's mandatory expansion of Medicaid was unconstitutional, but Vinson sided with the government on that issue, saying that states can leave Medicaid at any time, Politico reported. He and a fellow Republican-appointed judge in Virginia have ruled against the reform law, while judges in Michigan and Virginia have ruled in favor of it.