MONDAY, Jan. 31 (HealthDay News) -- A federal judge in Florida
ruled Monday that the controversial health-care reform law passed
by Congress last spring is unconstitutional because it requires
people to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.
"I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the act with the individual mandate," wrote U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, becoming the second federal judge to rule against the law signed by President Barack Obama in March, USA Today reported.
The law's constitutionality is expected to ultimately be decided
by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Florida court case marked the largest challenge so far to
the health-reform law, including governors and attorneys general
from 26 states opposed to the legislation.
Two other federal courts have upheld the constitutionality of
the law -- a centerpiece of President Barack Obama's first two
years in office and the first significant overhaul of the nation's
health-care system in decades. It also pitted Democrats, who backed
the reform for the most part, against Republicans, who opposed
Vinson had indicated in the past that he would likely rule that
the so-called individual mandate overstepped constitutional limits
on federal authority. "The power that the individual mandate seeks
to harness is simply without prior precedent," Vinson wrote in an
earlier opinion in October, the
Wall Street Journal reported.
On Dec. 13, a federal judge in Virginia sided with that state's
attorney general, who contended that the individual insurance
mandate -- to take effect in 2014 -- violated the Constitution,
making it the first successful challenge to the legislation.
The dispute over the constitutionality of the insurance mandate
is similar to arguments in about two dozen health-care reform
lawsuits that have been filed across the country, according to
What made the Florida case different was that the lawsuit had
been filed on behalf of more than 20 states.
The federal government contends that Congress was within its
legal rights when it passed Obama's signature legislative goal in
March. The U.S. Justice Department said the insurance mandate falls
within the scope of the federal government's authority under the
White House officials have said in the past that a negative
ruling would not affect the law's implementation because its major
provisions don't take effect until 2014.
By 2019, the law, unless changed, will expand health insurance
access to 94 percent of non-elderly Americans.
Florida's former attorney general, Bill McCollum, a Republican,
filed the lawsuit minutes after Obama signed the 10-year, $938
billion health-care reform bill into law on March 23, 2010. He
chose a court in Pensacola, one of Florida's most conservative
Associated Press reported.
Other states that joined the lawsuit were: Alabama, Alaska,
Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas,
Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North
Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas,
Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming, the
To learn more about the impact of the Affordable Care Act, visit
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Web