Toobin: Fight over health care law will end up at Supreme Court
January 31st, 2011
03:01 PM ET

Toobin: Fight over health care law will end up at Supreme Court

[Updated at 10:28 p.m.] The fight over the health care reform law ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge on Monday will eventually be decided by the Supreme Court, said CNN senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin.

"This Supreme Court is very evenly divided between liberals and conservatives. Anthony Kennedy tends to be the swing vote. I would not be at all surprised that he would be the swing vote in this case as well," Toobin said.

"When you consider that this is the signature achievement of the Obama administration, and that it is hanging by a legal thread right now, it's a cause of great concern to supporters of the law."

Because the Florida judge ruled that the individual mandate, the part of the law that says everyone has to buy health insurance, is unconstitutional, “he says the whole law has to go out the window,” Toobin said.

Toobin said it is important to note that several federal judges have found the law constitutional.

"This is why we have a United States Supreme Court, to settle when judges disagree with each other," Toobin said.

The nine justices "have the last word," Toobin said. "Nobody can tell them what to do or when to do it."

[Updated at 5:37 p.m.] The U.S. Department of Justice says it plans to appeal the ruling of a federal judge in Florida, who earlier today struck down as unconstitutional key parts of the sweeping health care reform bill championed by President Obama.

[Updated at 3:47 p.m.] A federal judge in Florida has ruled unconstitutional the sweeping health care reform law championed by President Barack Obama, setting up what is likely to be a contentious Supreme Court challenge in coming months over the legislation.

Monday's ruling came in the most closely watched of the two dozen challenges to the law. Florida along with 25 states had filed a lawsuit last spring, seeking to dismiss a law critics had labeled "Obamacare."

Judge Roger Vinson, in a 78-page ruling, dismissed the key provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - the so-called "individual mandate" requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or face
stiff penalties.

"I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate. That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and
Inequities in our health care system," Vinson wrote.

"Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, 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. 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.' "


Filed under: Health • Health care reform • Politics • Supreme Court
soundoff (1,747 Responses)
  1. Joe in MN

    It's easily severable! Look at Hawaii that has only an employer mandate (and the 2nd highest insured rate, and the lowest health care costs in the nation).

    January 31, 2011 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Anonymous

    I'm the CFO of a small health plan. I'm not sure if my company will succeed with health care reform, because we won't get paid as much money. But it will be worth it, even if I have to find a new job. Tens of millions of people will now be seen by a doctor they can call their own, hundreds of thousands of people won't be denied access to care for pre-existing conditions, the world's pharmaceutical research will no longer be borne on the backs of fixed income seniors making "food or medicine" decisions. A new system will emerge that pays doctors for people who stay healthy, instead of paying them for unnecessary extra procedures when they get sick. My only regret: It would have cost a lot less if doctors had been allowed to talk with their patients about how they wanted to be treated should they find themselves in an advanced state of disease. Most people don't want to die strapped up to machines in a hospital. They want to be at home, with their family – and enforcing patient wishes would just happen to save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.

    February 1, 2011 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  3. CTexas

    And how much is this exercise costing us?

    February 1, 2011 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. Roger

    What's the difference between health care and required participation in social security for retirement. State government requires mandatory participation in car insurance programs. Previously Bob Dole and other Republicans had supported this program. The right wing conservatives are acting like rabid dogs trying to destroy anything passed by Democrats whether it is beneficial to Americans or not. I think there should be immediate reconsideration by voters as to which party puts America first. Isn't that the real purpose of government – to pass laws which help form a more perfect union; not laws which benefit certain wealthy politically connected individuals.

    February 1, 2011 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  5. Joel Weymouth

    I will be very curious to see if Kagan recuses. She was the in administration as legal counsel to the administration during the preparation of this law. That of course means she can't rule on it.

    February 1, 2011 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  6. skytag

    The car insurance argument is not valid. If you wreck your car and don’t have insurance, people are going to feel bad for you, but our society will feel no moral obligation to fix it or provide you with a new car. No one’s tax dollars will go to fix it, no one’s car insurance premiums will go up to fix it. Ditto for homeowner’s insurance. If your uninsured house burns down, bummer for you, but society will feel no obligation to provide you with a new one. But if you have a heart attack, our society *will* feel a moral obligation to ensure you get medical care, even if you can’t pay for it. This is a major reason comparisons with other forms of insurance are meaningless, because no other form of insurance pays for a product our society feels obligated to provide if you can’t afford it.

    February 1, 2011 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. Brian

    "This is why we have a United States Supreme Court, to settle when judges disagree with each other,"

    That's nice, but what if they make a bad decision such as the Dred Scott decision of 1857? Fight a Civil War? Maybe we will have to fight a civil war over our health care mess if the Supreme Court makes a bad, or stupid decision.

    February 1, 2011 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. Tim

    For all of you people who don't want the gov. To force you to buy health insurance, is it ok then for the hospital to make you prove you can pay for treatment before they provide it so they don't have to pass the costs on to people that CAN pay because they have insurance? Only seems fair.

    February 1, 2011 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
  9. grant

    Is there any doubt that CNN has become a liberal mouthpiece? They are the only major media outlet to not make this story headline news. Instead, they try to bury the significance of this story and the damage this decision will do to the popularity of ObamaCare by sticking a legal opinion that this will be decided by the supreme court in place of fully covering the important decision made today. It's an outrage that this network has slid so far to the left.

    February 1, 2011 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  10. Tim

    Skytag, do you think hospitals could stay in business doing heart operations on people with no insurance? How do they get their money then? They pass the costs from the people that can't pay to the people that can. My rates are high because I'm paying for these dead beats that "choose" not to buy insurance. Why should I have to pay for somone who wants to gamble with their health and not buy insurance?

    February 1, 2011 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  11. Paul

    What amazes me is the level of stupidity so many people in here have. A bunch of comments like AMERICA 1 HITLER 0. And comments about how the libs really lost today and this health care is gone. You do realize this is a federal judge in Florida, one of the most republican heavy states there is. It has now been supported by two judges, and now thrown out by two judges, making it a tie. Ultimately it will go to the supreme court and it will pass and you will all be complaining again.

    p.s. illegals are not covered under this healthcare bill, please go educate yourselves, I'm really getting sick of having to do it for you.

    February 1, 2011 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  12. Cassy81

    I have literally been brought to tears by how insensitive some of you are. Good diet and exercise habits don't prevent every ailment! Brain/breast cancer don't yield to healthy eaters, heart disease , ms, etc. affects young healthy republicans, democrats, rich and poor. Please stop complaining about your taxes and ways to save that extra $10 of income tax, and think about the scope of the impact of healthcare reform. I am newly self employed due to the down-trodden economy. I am working, giving back to my society. I employ 4 recent college grads, and have yet to turn a profit. That said, I cannot afford a private health plan. What if I was struck with an illness? What would happen to my daughter? I would, in an instant, close shop, file for welfare and Medicare and get taken care of. And YOU would pay for it! Because my life is just as valuable as yours~ a Christian democrat

    February 1, 2011 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
  13. Tom kuhn

    Outstanding ruling!

    February 1, 2011 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
  14. phil

    The subprime mortgage meltdown rests on the government and the mortgagee.. with the passing of the community reinvestment act the government put pressure on the banking industry to loosen mortgage requirments.. However the final responsability rests on the individual who borrowed over their head for something they cannot afford!!!! as far as the health insurance i believe all people should have access to health insurance but their are better ways than this 2000 page bill that "needed to be passed to see what is in it" such as a 4% tax on the sale of your home????

    February 1, 2011 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |
  15. jmalkk

    I got plenty of money to take care of my healthcare. I'm not paying a dime for some lazy loser to see the doctor – like most of the people commenting here.

    February 1, 2011 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
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