Judge’s Ruling on Health Care Lawsuit Will Shift Momentum in Coverage Debate

With Congress at an impasse on repealing President Obama’s signature health insurance law, all eyes are on a federal judge who is expected to deliver a ruling Monday about whether portions of the new law pass constitutional muster.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson’s ruling will be the biggest judicial decision to come down the pike since groups began filing lawsuits against the bill passed by Congress last March. Twenty-six states are parties to the suit, which claims a mandate to insist Americans purchase a product is unconstitutional.

In October, Vinson dismissed four of the six counts in the suit led by then-Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. But he allowed two counts, including one challenging the law’s controversial requirement that Americans buy health insurance, to proceed. Arguments were heard in December.

In his earlier ruling, Vinson said that a government report called the requirement to buy insurance legally unprecedented and worth examining in court.

“The individual mandate applies across the board. People have no choice and there is no way to avoid it. Those who fall under the individual mandate either comply with it, or they are penalized. It is not based on an activity that they make the choice to undertake. Rather, it is based solely on citizenship and on being alive,” he wrote. “Of course, to say that something is ‘novel’ and ‘unprecedented’ does not necessarily mean that it is ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘improper.’ There may be a first time for anything.”

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