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. Brad

    Florida? Really? That whole state is crooked. This will get overturned so it won't be a problem.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad is Dumb

      Florida? This is a Federal Court, Federal Issue and Federal judge. Other than pure ignorance...any reason why you are referencing the State of Florida?

      January 31, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Steve

    Instead, I have to pay, with my taxes, for those that don't have insurance when they go to the ER which is much more expensive.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dappa

    To all of you who dislike health care reform and whose argument is "the govt can't force you to buy a product" I say to you don't the govt mandate you have auto insurance.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • BobJones

      Good grief – do you know the difference between state rights and federal rights? Oh, you skipped that class, huh.

      January 31, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • G

      Check the threads to see how many times the auto insurance argument has failed.

      January 31, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thor

      You only have to but auto insurance if you DECIDE to drive. You can DECIDE not to drive. And, the insurance is liability designed to protect others from accidents.

      January 31, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kevin

    For the GOP "plan" to be complete, emergency rooms must be allowed to refuse treatment to those who don't self-pay or have health insurance.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. lankale

    I cant for the life of me understand why this is still being debated. 80% of you on this page dont make over $80k a year (look into your soul and diasgree with me)...another 60-75% of you dont own your own business and rely on your employer for health care. The LAW that was passed was NOT for're all complaining and not realizing that the same fools that youre calling lazy for getting covered by this law or being required to get insurance by this law are the SAME people causing your current insurance cost to be high...forget what side you're own for a second and take racism away...less than 10% of you on this page (probably close to less than 3%) will incur additional expenses as a result of this law and youre complaining???? You should only complain about what affects YOUR TAX BRACKET. (when will you all learn?)

    January 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Prices are going up! And for those of us who have emplyer-provided healthcare, that means that the price increase is passed along to our employer, who then passes it to us in the form of lower wages, etc. That's assuming they even decide to keep us on their healthcare roll, as opposed to dropping us onto the newly expanded Medicaid rolls and paying a small fee (much less than the cost of insuring me).

      January 31, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christie

      Matt - Your price argument is terrible. Prices were going up LONG LONG LONG before this bill was ever passed and have been going up nearly every year for a DECADE. Look at the facts.

      January 31, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • HillsBros

      It's called CORPORATE CAPITALISM. In America companies like to make a profit and employees (doctors and hospital staff) like to make alot of money. The issue here is the COST of medical care which drives the cost of insurance up to the point of unaffordability. Which then forces people to fall back on no cost Medicaid (taxpayer funded). If the cost of medical care was contained (or cut) we would be off to a good start in reducing insurance premiums for everyone.

      January 31, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bryan

    Whenever I read comments on articles, I'm reminded of grade school.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • BobJones

      Whenever I read your comments, I reminded of basketweaving class.

      January 31, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Al Dope Capone

    Seemed like a cool idea though. Raising monthly premium payments for everyone with insurance already while still not making everyone covered. Giving insurance companies even more power while giving the appearance that it's being taken away. And don't forget the waivers given to companies that were big enough and loud enough to complain.

    Maybe next time.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tony

    it is legal for government to a draft and to require military service.

    it is currently the law of the land that every 18 yr old man to register with selective service. if the government can legally require that, then requiring the purchase or obtainment of health insurance is even less onerous or intrusive.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. pat

    You have to pay taxes for just being alive – you pay for Medicare, Social Security, If the American people were smarter, they would demand a single-payer government controlled health care system like every other civilized nation in the world has. Everyone is in this together and should pay for it together. Medicare for all is the answer.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mark

    Can someone please tell me what is so bad about this healthcare INSURANCE reform bill?

    Is denying people with pre-existing conditions bad?
    Is not allowing kids to stay on their parents plans bad?
    Are healthcare insurance co-ops and bargaining groups bad?

    hmmm.... you people do realize this is a reform of the healthcare INSURANCE industry...not the Healthcare system... right. I guess you don't mind having corporate businessmen making YOUR life or death decisions for you. Especially since they view YOUR life as a profit making device... or a debt creating device. The profit motive should not be applied to LIFE!

    Conservative won't admit it blatantly but it is a fact demonstrated by their actions... they want poor people who get sick to just DIE! They are not willing to risk their $$$ on life... its sad. I just wish all you conservatives in those conservative state would wake up and realize that corporations are NOT on your side... the only thing on YOUR side (well is suppose to be) is the government... thats the whole POINT of government.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • truman

      The goverment has no right to tell me that if I want to buy health insurance. Everybody will be covered but the care will go downhill. My sister can not afford health insurance but was in the hospital for a week and has not paid a dime. What is wrong with current healthcare coverage.

      January 31, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christie

      So everyone else paid for your sister's care?

      There are alot of problems with health care in this country and if you don't believe that's the case, you've read nothing and you're either dumb, naive, or brainwashed. Maybe all three!

      January 31, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Denying insurance to those with pre-existing conditions is actually essential if we are to have "insurance." The anology is suppose that you could buy homeowners insurance after your house was on fire. Smart people would simply not buy insurance until they actually had a loss. An insurance company cannot exist if they have to cover people that already have something before they seek insurance. We have found a good compromise currently. As long as you are covered by insurance, you are free to switch companies and have pre-existing conditions covered. Many employer plans will cover pre-existing conditions if you get insurance when you are hired. But allowing anyone to get insurance whenever they want will simply encourage people not to get insurance until they have a loss (or illness). We also need to switch back to major medical insurance. You pay a deductiblle and a percentage. This encourages people to seek out lower cost providers and more cost effective treatments. Medical care (like education and housing) gets more expensive as the government tries to make it "more affordable!" Why do so many of you think that just because you want some service, others should be forced to pay for that service and provide it for you?

      January 31, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Orge-

    States may require you to have insurance on your car, to have it regesitered in that state. This is TOTALLY different than the Federal Gavernment telling you you must purchase somthing just because you happen to be breathing. Imagine if they decided what type of car you need to own, say a GM, since they have a stake in the company now. Or maybe we all need to own a specific type of trash can, that will tell the Government if you throw somthing recycleable in it? Give them one inch, they WILL take the mile, just one step at a time.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jen

    I have gone for over two years without health insurance. I did not qualify for my work insurance because I was not hired at the correct amount of hours yet week after week put in more than enough. I did not qualify for Medicaid because I earned too much. And now that I finally have insurance thanks to my 2nd job (yes I am working 2 jobs) I am able to get insurance but it will not cover anything that is pre-exisiting. I think what the President was trying to do was to help people like me. Because all the people not working, or disable are already on the state run insurance (medicaid). I think that it is a shame that small minded people can not look at the whole picture. Maybe people shouldn't be forced to buy insurance but it should be made affordable for EVERYONE to purchase.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ldan1234

    EVEN IF the mandatory policy is not required, it won't effect whether the Patient Protection program goes through. It only means insurance companies won't have equalizing income to offset the more expensive coverage from pre-existing customers being brought into the program by law. Without the equalizing (more profitable) policies, they will need to charge us more for our policies. In short, all those people hoping for the courts to successfully throw out this careful of what you wish for. You may be paying more.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. RobSelectivePeterToPayCollectivePaul

    If O-care is so great why have over 700 exemptions been granted to unions and companies that suck up to the regime? Cronyism, pure and simple.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • ldan1234

      what kind of exemptions?

      January 31, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jason W.

    As a Canadian it is completely inconceivable to me that I would ever have to pay to go to a doctor, or have an operation. Now I know I am not an American and maybe its none of my business, but as a country, a human being why would you ever want your neighbor, your uncle, best friend to go into debt just to have an operation, or even worse go without the operation because they cannot afford it.

    Don't get me wrong the Canadian Health Care System is not perfect but it provides for everyone, no matter your income. Our taxes are a little higher but I'd much rather pay a little extra for something at Wal-Mart then not being able to afford a doctor or have my neighbor not being able to afford a medical procedure.

    When almost every major western country, (England, France, Germany etc..) has universal health care why is the USA without?

    January 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • DemocratinNY

      Thank you, at least somebody has an ounce of humanity.

      January 31, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christie

      I think we may have people here without souls, I'm not sure, but that's what my money is on. Humanity only matters sometimes.

      January 31, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt S

      Don't you watch Fox News? All Canadians hate their health care system and come to the US whenever they have a problem. Clearly an American in Texas knows more about your healthcare system than you do.

      January 31, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan G

      Dont you get it. Canadians stream across our border everday to get care they cant get in canada because your system cant help them. You get to visit the doctor when they want you to. I live in Buffalo. Our doctors have so many canadian patients because the socialist system cant save them. Only our system can. I love Canada but you guys have to understand your healthcare survives because our open system gives you the way to save the really sick. That is also why so many of your doctors practice in the US, they can save more lives.

      January 31, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • usarnaem

      Ryan G: I find it hilarious how you're lecturing a Canadian on how terrible his healthcare system is, when in fact he's saying its pretty awesome. You don't live in Canada. He does. As such, I'll defer to his opinion when I want to know what the Canadian healthcare system is like.

      By the way, if the United States healthcare system is so great, why do we rank behind Costa Rica? Oh, its because our healthcare system is only great if you can afford it. Otherwise your options are to either go bankrupt or die.

      January 31, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
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