By Andrew M Harris
(c) 2011 Bloomberg News
Monday, January 31, 2011; 3:05 PM
Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama's health care reform legislation, assailed as an abuse of federal power in a 26-state lawsuit, was ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. judge.
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Florida, declared the law unconstitutional in a ruling today. Then- Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum filed suit on behalf of 13 states on March 23, the same day Obama signed into law the legislation intended to provide the U.S. with almost universal health-care coverage. Seven states joined the litigation last year, and six signed on this year. Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli sued separately on March 23 and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed his own suit on Jan. 21.
Vinson's ruling may be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta. A federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, is already slated in May to hear challenges to two conflicting federal court rulings in that state, one of which upheld the legislation while the other invalidated part of it. The U.S. Supreme Court may ultimately be asked to consider the issue.
The 955-page law bars insurers from denying coverage to people who are sick and from imposing lifetime limits on costs. It also includes pilot projects to test ideas like incentives for better results and bundled payments to medical teams for patient care.
In an Oct. 14 decision letting the case to proceed, Vinson narrowed the issues to whether the act exceeded the constitutional powers of Congress by requiring all Americans over the age of 18 to obtain coverage and expanding eligibility for Medicaid, the federal-state program offering care for the indigent.
The case is State of Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 10-cv-00091, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida (Pensacola).