Blog | Friday, March 4, 2011

QD: News Every Day--Judge relents, health care reform can continue

A federal judge who'd ruled health care reform was unconstitutional and that his decision as a federal judge was the equivalent of an injunction has relented. Health care reform can continue in the states, pending appellate and Supreme Court review.

"The sooner this issue is finally decided by the Supreme Court, the better off the entire nation will be," wrote federal judge Roger E. Vinson, who'd decided that the health care reform act's mandate that people buy insurance or face penalties overextended Congress' powers under the commerce clause of the constitution.

One reason for granting a stay, despite his previous clear intent that health care reform cease, includes his statement (on page 18) that:

"Can (or should) I enjoin and halt implementation of the Act in a state where one of its federal courts has held it to be Constitutional? In addition, many of the plaintiff states have publicly represented that they will immediately halt implementation of the Act in light of my declaratory judgment, while at least eight plaintiff states (as identified by the defendants in their motion and reply) have suggested that, in an abundance of caution, they will not stop implementing the Act pending appeal. In addition to these apparent disagreements among the plaintiff states, there is even disagreement within the plaintiff states as to whether the implementation should continue pending appeal. For example, while the plaintiffs (a group that includes the Attorney General of Washington) have requested that I enjoin the defendants from implementing the Act, the Governor of Washington has just filed an amicus brief specifically opposing that request."

The decision gives the Obama administration seven days to file an appeal against his decision, which a U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson said the administration intends to do.

The entire issue was a bit of game-playing by the different branches of government, explains ABC News. The judge's decision made his intent perfectly clear, yet the administration asked for clarification. The judge's latest decision called out the administration on its request, yet he issued a stay on his own order. Why? Because had the judge stuck to his guns, the administration could have gone to the appellate level and likely received the stay anyway.

It's not just a federal judge who finds the mandate unappealing. A new poll reveals that half of all Americans oppose an individual mandate. Confusingly, however, many people support the rationale behind it.

Only 22 percent support the individual mandate, reported a poll by Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll released March 1. But 71% said they agreed with the statement, "[F]or health insurance to work, it is necessary to include people who are healthy in order to help pay for those who are sick."

And, 56% of Americans agree that if everyone is required to have health insurance, including healthy people, it will make the average cost of insurance less expensive. Another point is that 51% agreed with the idea that requiring insurance companies to provide health insurance to people with preexisting conditions will not work unless everyone is required to have insurance.

It's the constitutionality of it all that gets respondents stuck. Half said the individual mandate was unconstitutional, 20% percent thought it was, and 30% weren't sure. Most felt that the Supreme Court would decide on the issue, but in a politically partisan way.

The poll included 3,419 adults who were surveyed online in February.