Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Florida judge: stop ACA rollout

In issuing a declaratory judgment on January 31 that the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional, Judge Roger Vinson of the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida may have, in effect, voided the implementation of the law in the 26 states that joined in the Florida case.

In the ruling, Mr. Vinson stated both that the individual mandate in the ACA is unconstitutional and that the individual mandate cannot be separated from the rest of the law (State Of Florida, et al. v. United States Department Of Health And Human Services, et al. (Case No.: 3:10-Cv-91):

"There are simply too many moving parts in the Act and too many provisions dependent (directly and indirectly) on the individual mandate and other health insurance provisions-which, as noted, were the chief engines that drove the entire legislative effort-for me to try and dissect out the proper from the improper, and the able-to-stand-alone from the unable-to-stand-alone."

Mr. Vinson then concluded, "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. At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled 'The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.'"

So, what does this mean?

ACA provisions in jeopardy. Thus, without a stay on the decision (either by Mr. Vinson or by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals), small business tax credits, the ability of young adults to be covered by their parents' insurance, early retiree subsidies to employers, preventive care mandates, and all the other ACA provisions now in effect could be in jeopardy in the states covered by the ruling.

High Court ruling inevitable. So far, in addition to the latest Florida case, there have been at least five rulings on the ACA--district court judges are split as to whether the individual mandate passes constitutional muster. A final resolution is not expected until the Supreme Court agrees to hear one or more of the cases.
For a comprehensive analysis of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and additional information on health reform and other developments in employee benefits, just click here.


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