In Florida yesterday, Federal District Court Judge Roger Vinson ruled the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional because it penalizes Americans for not having health insurance beginning in 2014. Judge Vinson stated in his opinion that the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision, which requires that a person have minimum health coverage or face a modest monetary penalty beginning in 2014, is beyond the scope of Congress’ regulatory powers as established in the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Judge Vinson did rule the Act remains in effect until the appeal process has ended.
The Vinson decision appears to be out of the judicial mainstream. So far, 12 federal judges, according to the White House, have dismissed such cases and two judges have upheld the law. One court has ruled the “individual responsibility” provision is unconstitutional but not the entire act. Nevertheless, this decision insures the US Supreme Court will have the final say.
The case was filed by 25 Republican Attorneys General and Governors. The American Cancer Society Action Network, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, the American Hospital Association and the American Nurses Association filed amicus briefs in support of the Affordable Care Act.
In December, Virginia federal judge Henry Hudson ruled in a case filed in March by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that just the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision of the Patient Protection is unconstitutional, not the entire Act. The provision and the entire Act have previously been challenged and found constitutional by another court in Virginia and one in Michigan. Judge Hudson’s ruling is the first to find the provision unconstitutional.
Currently under the ACA, certain preventive procedures, such as mammograms, colonoscopies, pap smears, tobacco cessation services, and obesity prevention services, no longer require a co-payment or other direct costs. President Obama signed the final version of the Affordable Care Act in March. The final law will eventually add coverage for 32 million people, increasing access to family planning and preventive care.