Lawyers for 20 U.S. states and Obama administration sparred in a Florida court over the constitutional challenges of the new healthcare law that requires all Americans to have medical insurance before 2014 or face a fine.
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson said, after three hours of hearing arguments, that he planned to make a decision as quickly as possible, but noted the case will take time to examine.
I cannot give you a date certain, he said as attorneys general and governors in 20 states asked him to issue a summary judgment striking down the healthcare law without a full trial.
Last week, a federal judge in Virginia expressed the merits of a lawsuit brought by 20 states challenging the constitutionality of the national healthcare reform law. The dispute over the plan likely would be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Department of Justice is considering its appeal options disagreeing the ruling issued in Virginia and insisting the new law falls within Congress’ power to regulate economic activity under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, said the White House Blog.
Administration officials have insisted it is constitutional and necessary to stem huge projected increases in health care costs.
One of the plaintiffs' lawsuit claims that the sweeping healthcare reform law oversteps constitutional limits on federal power and would force massive spending on hard-pressed state governments.
On March 23, 2010, the health care reform law was enacted nationally as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed by President Barack Obama.
Since the law passed, more than 20 lawsuits have been filed challenging the law and judges have dismissed 12 of these cases. But in two cases, federal judges looked at the merits of the plaintiffs' arguments.
The plaintiffs' claim that the individual responsibility requirement - the requirement that all Americans carry a minimum level insurance by 2014 - exceeds Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce because it penalizes economic 'inactivity'.
Throughout the arguments in Florida, the judge repeatedly returned to the issue of whether Congress can force individuals to purchase a product or face penalties if they don't.
The Florida case argues that the law is unconstitutional because it expands Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides healthcare for the poor and disabled.
Many of the 17 percent of Americans are living without health insurance either can’t afford it or have been denied coverage because of a preexisting condition.
Through the law, about 18 million people would become eligible for Medicaid.
In Florida case argument, the law would require states to spend more money on the program, said Blaine Winship, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.
Justice Department attorney Ian Gershengorn argued that Congress has authority to regulate the parameters of the Medicaid program and the courts have repeatedly upheld expansions of the original safety net program.
The law is a brilliant and powerful attack line for Obama's ambitious plan to overhaul America's health insurance system and aims to expand health insurance for millions more Americans while curbing costs.
Gershengorn have spoken that the health care market is unique because the people will receive health care whether they pay for it or not.
The decision to finance your healthcare services out of pocket or by insurance is not inactivity, Gershengorn said. The decision to run the risk of incurring healthcare cost without paying for them and relying on other people to pick up the tab is not inactivity.