Monday, January 31, 2011

Federal Judge Roger Vinson Also Rules Mandatory Insurance Unconstitutional

PENSACOLA, Fla. -- In December 2010, Judge Henry E. Hudson of the Federal District Court in Richmond, Va., struck down a key provision of the health care reform law that requires Americans to obtain commercial insurance. Today, Judge Roger Vinson of the Federal District Court in Pensacola, Fla., also ruled the law unconstitutional. But unlike his Virginia counterpart, Judge Vinson declared that the entire health care act should be repealed if appellate courts follow suit in invalidating the insurance requirement.

The Provision Being Debated
The requirement in dispute involves the mandate that individuals must carry some form of health insurance by 2014 or face penalties.

  • The penalty will be phased in, starting at $95 or 1 percent of income in 2014, whichever is higher, and rising to $695 or 2.5 percent of income in 2016. But families would not pay more than $2,085.
  • American Indians do not have to buy insurance. Those with religious objections or a financial hardship can also avoid the requirement. And if a person would pay more than 8 percent of his or her income for the cheapest available plan, that person will not be penalized for failing to buy coverage.
  • Those who are exempt or under 30 can buy a policy that pays only for catastrophic medical costs. It must allow for three primary care visits a year as well.

Starting in 2014, anyone with an income below 133 percent of the poverty level -- or about $29,327 in 2009 for a family of four -- will be eligible for a rejuvenated Medicaid program. Medicaid’s reimbursements will be increased to the same level as Medicare, making more doctors willing to accept it.

The Provision as Unconstitutional
In a 78-page opinion, Judge Vinson held that the insurance requirement exceeds the regulatory powers granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Judge Vinson wrote: “It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause.”

Vinson also opined that if Congress were granted such unfettered power, it “could do almost anything it wanted.”

The plaintiffs in the Florida case characterized the insurance requirement as a partisan attempt to penalize citizens for failing to purchase a product. Legal experts in favor of the decision agreed with the plaintiffs and said that the health care act’s passage would create a slippery slope, reminiscent of the type invoked by former Representative Rick Santorum (R-PA) when he called for the outlawing of homosexual unions.

Santorum had responded to the question of legalizing homosexual marriage by stating, “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.” In clarifying “anything,” Santorum went on to describe what he termed “man on child” and “man on dog love.”

San Narciso County Judge Darren Douglass supports the Santorum Slippery Slope in all instances.

“It’s a very complex legal argument,” Douglass explained. “Does the court bear responsibility for regulating the type of consensual sex you may have in your home? Yes, the sodomy laws make that clear. You’re also not allowed to use drugs or solicit the services of prostitutes, although both actions could be considered consensual. It’s not an individual rights issue, it’s a public obscenity issue. It’s a morality issue. It’s too cumbersome to get into with laypeople, but let me just say this: it’s a gross miscarriage of justice to regulate what people can and can’t buy. It’s well within the court’s domain to regulate who you can and can’t sleep with, as a strict public safety and health policy. So while the court can enforce public health through the control of sex acts, forcing a person to be healthy in a medical sense via mandated insurance requirements is illegal.”

Judge Douglass went on to raise a hypothetical outcome of the slippery slope, where Americans become prisoners to government-mandated gym memberships, vegetable consumption, red meat restrictions, and eventually the abolition of cars to make way for bicycles as the country’s primary means of transportation.

“Where are your freedoms as a free market consumer then?” Douglass questioned.

“Can you imagine? What if the government made it a legal requirement to carry commercial insurance to operate a motor vehicle? What if the government forced businesses to carry commercial insurance to cover their employees for Worker’s Compensation or disability or Social Security? It’s just absurd. Especially with motor vehicles. Driving is a privilege, not a right. Forcing a motorist to purchase insurance in order to exercise that privilege would be almost as unconstitutional as Obamacare. It would cripple our freedoms and transform the nation into a despotic, socialist state.”
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