A federal judge ruled the health care reform law unconstitutional Jan. 31 in a suit brought against the federal government by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business.
Led by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, the states and trade group challenged the law's Medicaid program expansion and the individual mandate, a major provision requiring virtually all Americans to obtain health insurance in 2014.
U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson said that because the individual mandate is not severable from the law, 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," he wrote in his 78-page ruling. "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.'"
In a press statement, Bondi said, "Today's ruling by Judge Vinson is an important victory for every person who believes in the freedoms granted to us by our Constitution."
Reaction from the U.S. Department of Justice
As expected the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would appeal the decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
"We strongly disagree with the court's ruling today and continue to believe - as other federal courts have found - that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional," department spokesperson Tracy Schmaler said in a press statement. "This is one of a number of cases pending before courts around the country, including several that the government has won in the district courts that are now before the courts of appeals. There is clear and well-established legal precedent that Congress acted within its constitutional authority in passing this law and we are confident that we will ultimately prevail on appeal."
The federal government is also appealing a decision reached by U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson, who, in a December ruling, struck down the individual mandate as unconstitutional in a similar lawsuit brought by the state of Virginia.
Both cases are expected to wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court.