Exactly one week after a federal judge in Michigan ruled that health reform’s individual mandate is constitutional, a federal judge in Florida has decided it may not be. In a decision that clears that way for summary judgement hearing scheduled for Dec. 16, Judge Roger Vinson said the following charges made in the lawsuit have merit and should be allowed to proceed:
(1) the individual mandate and concomitant penalty exceed Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause
and violate the Ninth and Tenth Amendments (Count I);
(4) the Act coerces and commandeers the states with respect to Medicaid by altering and expanding the program in violation of Article I
and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments (Count IV);
Four other arguments made by the 20 states who are parties to the lawsuit were rejected by Vinson.
That two federal judges – one nominated by Ronald Reagan (Vinson) and one nominated by Bill Clinton (George Steeh of Michigan) – have issued different opinions on similar legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act is a preview of what’s to come. Regardless of the final outcome, which could be decided by the Supreme Court, the suit will likely continue for years.
UPDATE: I’ve updated the headline of this post to reflect the fact that while the judicial decisions in Florida and Michigan are different – the former is not a final judgement and merely means the case has enough merit to proceed, while the Michigan ruling ended the case in that court – they can be viewed politically (at this juncture) as one victory and one defeat for each side of this issue.