Debate Over Health Care Law's Unconstitutionality Continues

The debate over the national health care overhaul continues on Capitol Hill, after a Florida judge struck down the entire law as unconstitutional. This week's ruling centers on whether the "individual mandate" provision exceeds the regulatory powers of Congress, as Ed Mayberry reports.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says the ruling by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Florida makes it clear that Congress exceeded constitutional boundaries by requiring all Americans — against their will — to buy government-approved health insurance. Texas is one of 26 states that challenged that mandate requirement. University of Houston Professor Seth Chandler specializes in insurance law.

"All 2,000 pages of it have been thrown out by this judge on the basis that he can't figure out how to separate those parts that he thinks are unconstitutional from the remainder."

In December, another district judge found the mandate violates the constitution's commerce clause. But other federal judges have struck down challenges to the law, and two have upheld the legislation. 

"A decision in Florida, coupled with the conflicting decisions from the other courts potentially gives insurers and states and others involved in the process an ability to resist implementation of what's already a very complicated health care bill. Sooner or later, the Supreme Court is likely to have to resolve this, although I suspect the Supreme Court would prefer to leave this matter to the political process and therefore may take its sweet time in deciding a case where the big issues actually don't come into effect until 2014."

Professor Chandler says the question is to what extent the federal government can solve health care problems, in a field often  regulated by the states. 

"The interesting question to me is whether any insurance company is now going to have the guts to say that in light of the Florida court decision, it's no longer willing to abide by the existing provisions of the Affordable Care Act."

The Obama administration says it will appeal the Florida judge's ruling.

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...