Health Care Plan Struck Down

From CNN.com:

[A federal judge in Florida, named] Vinson dismissed the key provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act– the so-called “individual mandate” requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or face stiff penalties.

“I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate. That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and inequities in our health care system,” wrote Vinson.

“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,” Vinson wrote, adding, “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.”

The Justice Department declared its intentions to appeal the ruling to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Interesting article here.

  • http://rtwministries.com Dr Bob Wenz

    With the Obama administration already granting 700 special exemptions to its “friends” (organizations), it seems incongruous that the Federal government should base the system on a mandate upon individuals to purchase health insurance.

    The system needs fixing, indeed, but it can be accomplished in other ways: competition across state lines for insurance companies, tort reform (now popular with the trial lawyers who support the Obama plan), real transparency in costs, and tying insurance prices to self care issues such as smoking, drinking and weight control (a higher premium).

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    @Dr Bob Wenz, #2, wrote: The system needs fixing, indeed, but it can be accomplished in other ways…

    competition across state lines for insurance companies

    Empirical evidence refutes this — states that do this do not have rates any lower, nor is coverage improved.

    tort reform

    Amounts to less than 2% of revenues, even if all lawsuits were to disappear, effect would be negligible.

    real transparency in costs

    That is part of the ACA.

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jason Dye

    oh boy. here we go again…

  • Napman

    Naum, I think what is envisioned is creating a national health insurance market for residents of any state. To create this market Federal legislation is required.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    This is obviously further proof of the innerency of the deeply Christian founding fathers. It is obvious that this is the first step down a slippery slope of adapting the constitution to our needs and not the pure, uncontaminated needs of the founding fathers. This must be a reflection of the roles that are becoming muddied in our country. Our FF did not allow nor ever promote that a woman will be able to have legislative authority over men. That is, of course, unless there is man on the council giving the legislative authority.

    Please, do not allow these acts that would be against the FF come to pass. We will not allow~!!!!

    Somebody please do a better job than me…

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Oh, I have it, Given that we are now using ghastly chemicals that cause a person to lose they faculties, no one, I mean no one should be required to take these medicines to have a simple limb exorcism from one of our proud brothers!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Last one,

    No pollution of our vital bodily fluids will ever be tolerated in this nation!

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    DRT, we have a constitution for a reason. If you don’t like what it says, there is a procedure to change it. But we cannot simply ignore it. If we ignore one unpopular part now, how will we stop some future Congress from ignoring a more important part later?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    ChrisB, thanks, and I get that. But the rhetoric seems to me to be more along the lines of it being against the constitution=wrong. A better attitude would be against the constitution=consider for revision.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    OK, I don’t want to defend, rather I would like to state the position for which I stand. I feel that a Jesus society is expressed best in its treatment of the under-privileged. I cannot escape from my conviction that the single most important teaching of Jesus is that we should treat those who have the prejudice of society against them as if they had it equally for them. I don’t care what cost it has to those in the graces of society.

  • stephen

    I would be surprised if this ruling were not overturned.

    The law doesn’t actually mandate the purchasing of insurance. You can opt to not buy insurance, but if you do, you have to pay a tax. The only real mandate is you have to pay your tax. You can’t opt out of that.

    Big difference there.

  • Jorge L

    Yes, DRT, by all means we need to take care of the underprivileged.

    So?

    I get so tired of people assuming that only my side cares about the underpriveleged, that if someone says a piece of legislation I favor is bad, that that person doesn’t care about the underprivileged.

    So Obamacare was struck down as unconstitutional, with the judge quoting Obama’s own words in 2008 in which he declared that an individual mandate won’t solve the health care problems.

    The judge repeatedly and I mean repeatedly said that health care needs reforming. He struck it down because he believes it violates the Constitution. That has nothing, nothing, nothing to do with whether we as a nation take care of the underprivileged.

    It
    jus
    says
    that
    this
    particular
    way of doing so
    is not permitted under law.

    What if, dear DRT, Obamacare actually would make things worse for the underprivileged? As in the case of McDonald’s, which had health insurance for its employees but would be forced to drop it, so Sebelius granted a waiver. Now, if McDonalds was so utterly mean and uncaring to its employees, why is HHS, in effect, saying, no, no, no, keep on offering what you’ve been offering–it’s not that bad, after all?

    And then there are all the waivers being granted solely on partisan political bases, to all the homies in the unions who financed Obama’s billion-dollar election. That’s fixing health care now, isn’t it? That’s taking care of all those underprivileged union bosses now, isn’t it?

    Some people think Obamacare makes things precisely for those near the bottom. You think it won’t. But that’s the debate, now, isn’t it?

    But discussing the nitty gritty of what’s in this legislation and what’s not, how it will cash out, that’d be hard work. It’s a lot easier just to assume that anyone who opposes it opposes taking care of the underprivileged.

  • Jorge L

    Stephen,

    Well, technically, the law doesn’t mandate that I not steal. I’m free to go ahead and steal. But the law says that if I do, I’ll have to pay a fine, go to jail, pay a penalty.

    So, Obamacare doesn’t say I HAVE to buy insurance. It just says that if I don’t, I’ll be penalized. Sounds like a mandate to me: do this or else. Sure, I can do the or else. But I can’t ignore the mandate without penalty. That’s what mandates are.

    The law doesn’t say I can’t murder. I’m free to murder. But if I do, I’ll have to pay a penalty.

    The federal government mandates that states do X and not do Y. Sure, the states are free not to do X and to do Y. But if they do that, they’ll be deprived of federal grants or punished in some other way.

    Under any common-sense meaning for mandate, Obamacare mandates individual purchase of health insurance. And, the judge said, the Administration has repeatedly insisted that without this mandate the entire Act will fail.

    I think your argument is called sophistry.

  • Theo

    I think the judge gives a nice shout out to the Tea Party in his opinion.

    “It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place.”

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    @ChrisB, #9, I believe the judge here is out on a limb, given the stream of mainstream legal scholar (both conservative and liberal) thought.

    Of course, if fundamentalists continue to capture the judiciary (as was the course during GWB terms), it would harken the nation back to the Jim Crow era.

  • Robin

    Of course, if progressives begin to capture the judiciary, it would harken back to the Nazi era…or would it harken back to Stalinist Russia…I forget, it just matters that my opponents are evil and Barack Obama’s next appointee will surely order the execution of millions of Jews.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jorge L, You may be right in that there are cases where it makes it worse. But there is time to make it right. I don’t see anyone from the GOP offering things to make the coverage better.

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    @Robin, #17, Progressive != Nazi, unlike the Nazis, progressives not in favor of eliminating Jews, gays, trade unionists, etc.…

    OTOH, a perusal of the nation’s history illustrates how enactment of the “moral establishment” did in fact, discriminate against Jews, Catholics, native Americans, immigrants of non-White Protestant heritage, etc.…

    And let’s not forget that the ACA was a Republican crafted plan, architected originally by Republicans in the 90′s at the Heritage foundation and first implemented on a state level by a Republican (Mitt Romney). Definitely a harbinger of how crazy the political axis is tilting today with the party in power in Congress.

  • Daniel

    Robin, LOL, what’s good for the goose …

  • Peter

    I’ll come back to Jesus Creed in a few days. This is just too painful to read.

  • Aaron

    The battle lines are being drawn. The question of the constitutionality of the health care (insurance) act was only slightly addressed during all the who-di-hah. The discussion was pretty much stiffled. The cynicism of Congress got us where we are and this is going to end up in the USSC where it should end up and where it should be given a death sentence.

  • Richard

    In the end, even if it is overturned, I hope that the groundwork for substantive talks on healthcare reform are being laid – both in the President’s public hinting and seeing many GOP members back away from the inflammatory rhetoric that killed previous discussions. Personally, I don’t think the judge’s ruling will be upheld as alluded to above, purchase of insurance is not mandated – there are alternative courses of action.

    The “Tea Party shout-out,” as someone referred to it above neglects that the issue wasn’t taxes, it was taxes without representation when we split with GB. The USA is hardly an oppressive gov’t.

  • Houghton Grandmal

    But Naum, but Naum, DRT has informed us that the Republicans haven’t offered any alternative to the poor little deceased Obamacare. And here you say that they started the ball rolling. You and DRT need to get your talking points coordinated.

    DRT: “I don’t see anyone from the GOP offering things to make the coverage better.” You aren’t looking. On this very thread, at the top, were some Republican alternatives. In Congress in 2009 they offered an alternative. They were TOTALLY shut out of the legislative process by Nancy Pelosi and Hary Reid, who ran the most rabidly partisan Congress in recent memory. Yet they have the nerve to talk about civility and bipartisanship.

    The alternatives have been on the table for a long time. I’m fed up with the claim that they don’t care about the issue. It’s a lie.

  • stephen

    Jorge L #14

    Sophistry? That’s harsh, brother. My point about the mandate being the tax is quite relevant.

    The power of the government to tax is on solid ground, especially when a case can be made that the activity being taxed (going without insurance in this case) results in a cost to society at large that must be paid for.

    I guess we’ll see what the Supreme Court has to say about it.

  • Robin

    Stephen,

    Would you believe that the U.S. Congress has the right to require individuals to purchase the following items from private providers, under the threat of a tax penalty in order to reduce societal expenditures?

    Guns and ammunition to load it
    Gun safety training classes
    Gym memberships
    Home alert systems
    New tires every three years
    Oil changes every 3 months
    Windshield wiper blades every 6 months

    And I don’t mean “can congress give someone a tax deduction for such purposes” I mean, can congress say “if you don’t buy these things we are going to hit you with a brand new tax that hasn’t existed before”

    The lack of jail-time in this particular law is also misleadiing. If the law stand on constitutional grounds, then there is nothing to prohibit congress from attaching a penalty including jail time the next time they decide to pass a mandate.

    Also, it isn’t an income tax or an income tax penalty. It is a head tax, or a head tax penalty which stand outside the income tax system.

    Income taxes look like this.

    Tax=income*rate

    Head taxes look like this.

    Tax=same rate for all “heads”

    The “tax” included in this law looks like this

    Tax=same rate for all heads+(income*rate)-same rate for all heads [if you have insurance]

  • Richard

    @ 24 Houghton

    You do realize that “Obamacare” mirrors the GOP proposal from the mid-90s that they put forth against Hillary Clinton’s proposal? I don’t know how you get more bipartisan than that…

  • Ava

    Since President Reagan signed EMTALA into law Americans have been forced to pay for the healthcare of the voluntarily and involuntarily uninsured. I don’t understand why there is such objection to requiring (or allowing in the case of the involuntarily uninsured) people to contribute to the cost of their own healthcare, and no objection to the requirements imposed by EMTALA. I am a physician. I like the ACA because it is the only bill I’ve seen that protects those with pre-existing conditions, like adults with JODM or survivors of childhood cancers, for example, to protect themselves from medical bankruptcy.

  • Ava

    make that “allows those with pre-existing conditions a way to protect themselves from medical bankruptcy.” Then let me repeat that.
    Whatever plan we come up with, it has to be a plan that doesn’t discriminate against the sick. It has to be a plan that doesn’t make it more expensive and more stressful to live than it already is for someone with a serious illness.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    To the best of my knowledge, this is the Repub plan, hardly oriented around providing care to the underprivalaged http://www.gop.gov/solutions/healthcare):

    The Reform Americans Can Afford Act (H.R. 5424)
    Americans want a step-by-step, common-sense approach to health care reform, not the Democrats’ $1 trillion, 2,000-page government takeover of our nation’s health care system. The Reform Americans Can Afford Act would repeal the Democrats’ health law and replace it with policies that focus on lowering health insurance premiums for families and small businesses, increasing access to affordable care regardless of pre-existing health conditions, and promoting healthier lifestyles – without increasing taxes or cutting Medicare. Here are the key elements of Reform Americans Can Afford Act:
    • Lowering health care premiums. H.R. 5424 will lower health care premiums by up to 20% compared to the Democrats’ health law for families and small businesses, addressing Americans’ number-one priority for health care reform.
    • Establishing Universal Access Programs to guarantee access to affordable health care for those with pre-existing conditions. H.R. 5424 creates Universal Access Programs that fully fund and reform high-risk pools and reinsurance programs to guarantee that all Americans, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses, have access to affordable care – while lowering costs for all Americans.
    • Ending junk lawsuits. H.R. 5424 would help end costly junk lawsuits and curb defensive medicine by enacting medical liability reforms modeled after successful state laws that reduce unnecessary spending and lower health insurance premiums.
    • Preventing insurers from unjustly cancelling a policy. H.R. 5424 prohibits an insurer from cancelling a policy because an enrollee made simple errors on an insurance application forms
    • Allowing dependents to remain on their parents’ policies. H.R. 5424 encourages coverage of young adults on their parents’ insurance through age 25.
    • Encouraging Small Business Health Plans. H.R. 5424 gives small businesses the power to pool together and offer health insurance at lower prices, just as corporations and labor unions do.
    • Encouraging innovative state programs. H.R. 5424 rewards innovation by providing incentive payments to states that reduce premiums and the number those who are of uninsured, without expanding government entitlement programs or creating new ones.
    • Allowing Americans to buy insurance across state lines. H.R. 5424 increases insurance competition and lowers premiums by allowing Americans to shop for coverage from coast to coast regardless of the state they live in.
    • Promoting healthier lifestyles. H.R. 5424 promotes prevention and wellness by giving employers greater flexibility to financially reward employees who adopt and maintain healthier lifestyles.
    • Enhancing Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). H.R. 5424 creates new incentives to save for future health needs and allows qualified participants to use HSAs to pay health insurance premiums.

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    Just a followup, and a marker of how the current debates seems so like we’ve bizarro land…

    An interview with Mark Pauly, father of the individual mandate

    In 1991, economist Mark Pauly was the lead author of a Health Affairs paper attempting to persuade President George H.W. Bush and his administration to adopt a universal health-care proposal that would keep the government from eventually taking over the sector. “Our view is that excessive government intervention will make matters worse,” wrote Pauly and his co-authors. “Our strategy, therefore, is to design a scheme that limits governmental rules and incentives to the extent necessary to achieve the objectives.”

    At the heart of that strategy was the individual mandate, which would go on to be promoted by congressional Republicans, the Heritage Foundation, and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney before being adopted by Democrats and becoming a bete noire of conservatives.…

  • Ava
  • Robin

    Ava,

    EMTALA imposes burdens on hospitals, who can only exist and operate with permission from the state, and who receive a large chunk of their paychecks from the state. Furthermore, if they do not receive payments from the federal government, they are not required to comply. That is why EMTALA is codified in the section of Federal Law dealing with Medicare payments.

    Human beings are not creations of the state, and the health care mandate is applied to all citizens, regardless of their connection to the federal government.

    You bring up an interesting point though. The federal government routinely makes receipt of benefits contingent on other duties. The most obvious being highway funding, and the federal requirement of a drinking age being set at 21. States can let people drink before they turn 21, they just won’t get to put their hands in the federal cookie jar.

    Along the same lines, it would be perfectly consistent to say that citiznes cannot receive federal benefits – agriculture subsidies, oil subsidies, disaster payments, etc., unless they have an insurance plan (that in itself would make most farmers sign up). And it wouldn’t be a universal mandate that is contigent simply on being alive…it would make government benefits contingent on health insurance, and it should pass constitutional muster.

    The problem I, and other libertarianish people, have with the mandate is that it makes purchasing a product from an oligopolist supplier a requirement for simply breathing, and I don’t think the federal government should have the authority to mandate private economic transactions.

  • Ava

    Robin,
    EMTALA is a law whose effect is to cause citizens to pay more for their own healthcare because they are also indirectly paying for the healthcare of other people. It is okay with libertarians for the government to set up a law (EMTALA) that channels those indirect payments through private insurance companies and increased costs of Medicare, but not to require direct payments in the form of insurance or taxes from the people actually using the health care? That makes no sense to me.

  • Robin

    Ava,

    You can achieve that goal without using means that are constitutionally questionable. Take highway funding and the drinking age. The federal government never for a minute thought it had the constitutional authority to enact a federal drinking age, so it said “hey states, you see this pile of cash, we’ll give it to you if you do this thing that we consider a priority”

    For that matter, states do have the authority to issue purchase mandates. So the fed could have just offered states a pile of cash to enact their own mandates. They could have also instituted a public option or single-payer care, which even congressional proponent Anthony Weiner has stated wouldn’t be stuck in this constitutional limbo.

    The only issue is that congress chose to use a constitutionally dubious means to achieve its desired result.

  • Ava

    The Public Option is fine with me. It was dead before debate started because it has been stuck with the socialist label by people who refuse to recognize that our system has been socialized for decades but with no effective way to pay for it. Anyone who is truly against socialized medicine has to start by doing away with Medicare and EMTALA, and those have never been on the table.

  • Napman

    It is not clear to me why some seem to say that the moral vision of Jesus regarding care for the poor can only be upheld by supporting Obama’s health care policies. There are number of health care alternatives proposed by serious health care economists and scholars. If one does not know of them it would be good to bear that in mind when suggesting that there are no serious alternatives.

    There is no inherent moral virtue resident in Obama’s policies that shames those who dissent. A Christ follower is not necessarily an opponent or supporter of either party’s political ideology. I believe Christians should hold to their political philosophy with humility, remembering that the kingdom of Jesus comes not with the proposals or dispositions of any politician, regardless of party.

    Health care policy desperately needs reform, but I happen to believe that the Obama plan is not a good one. Real help for the needy should mean, among other things, help that is sustainable. In my opinion, Obama’s plan does not meet that test.

    The court’s opinion, in the case Scot cites, is tightly reasoned and therefore deserves respect, regardless of our preferred outcome. The “mainstream” of legal reasoning showed its value as an arbiter of Constitutionality when the Supreme Court made the largely discredited individual rights interpretation of the 2nd amendment “mainstream” by adopting it. I have a feeling Justice Kennedy is going to tell us what “mainstream” thinking will be with the individual mandate.


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