More than two dozen states won their challenge to the nation’s new health care law Monday when a judge in Florida said Congress does not have the power to make people buy health insurance.
The ruling is a step toward a major legal battle with an appeal from the Obama administration and puts fuel to the debate about how much input government can have on the lives of private citizens.
“There is a point where Congress overreaches its authority,” South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said. “Today, at least on a federal level, a judge has said the individual mandate went too far.”
The ruling by US District Judge Roger Vinson takes issue with the mechanism for funding the legislation finalized last March, and is just the latest twist in a number of rulings for and against the law. His ruling means Florida does not have to comply with the law. Lawmakers from 25 states joined the lawsuit to stop its implementation.
“All of this will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Until that happens, the rest of this is just theater,” said Dave Hewett, president of the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations.
Congress is also split on the law. The new Republican majority in the House of Representatives voted last month to repeal the law. Democrats still in charge of the Senate say they will not be bringing the legislation up for another vote.
The bill requires all Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty. Although most Americans already have health insurance, many do not, about 30 million uninsured, including healthy young adults who would rather not pay the premiums on health insurance coverage. Under than plan, they would be required to buy insurance for a few thousands dollars a year to help offset the costs for caring for older and sicker Americans.
People on both sides of the debate say the insurance mandate is key to entire package. One lawmaker made the example, states can enact laws requiring motorists to carry insurance, but added it should not be within the federal government.
“If we do not have a large population of folks with insurance coverage, it’s unsustainable,” said Sam Wilson, associate state director for advocacy for AARP in South Dakota.