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Health Care Reform Decision: What's it Mean?

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on February 03, 2011 8:55 AM

The new health care reform law (aka "Obamacare") has taken another hit in the courts. A Florida judge ruled the entire law is unconstitutional this week.

But the real question now is:

What does the health care decision really means for ordinary citizens? Especially now that some provisions of the law have already come into effect.

Judge Roger Vinson declined to issue an injunction preventing the federal government from enforcing the law while it appeals. So, technically, the decision means very little at all to anyone outside of the twenty-six states that signed onto the Florida lawsuit. However, citizens in those states might not see changes to MediCaid and other state-sponsored healthcare programs impacted by the law.

For everyone else? Until a court in your jurisdiction follows up with its own health care reform decision and declares the law unconstitutional, expect your state and the federal government to follow the time timeline set out in the law.

Like Virginia's health care reform decision in December, this one invalidated the law based on the following premise: the Commerce Clause does not grant Congress authority to force citizens to purchase a commodity (health insurance).

In short, the Commerce Clause grants Congress the power to regulate the instrumentalities (trucks, highways, the internet) of interstate commerce, as well as things in and that effect interstate commerce. The courts mainly require that the impact of those things that effect interstate commerce be economic in nature and often approve connections that are fairly tenuous.

In the case of health care reform, the government contends that not purchasing insurance impacts interstate commerce--health care costs shift from the uninsured to the insured, redistributing money across state lines. In his health care decision, Judge Roger Vinson shoots down this argument, further explains The Wall Street Journal, stating that the Commerce Clause does not permit the government to coerce citizens.

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