WASHINGTON - "Judicial activism on steroids," is how Ethan Rome, executive director of Health Care for America Now (HCAN) describes U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson's ruling Monday that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional because it requires health coverage.
The decision "advances the GOP's extremist agenda to return control of our health care to the insurance companies," said Rome, adding that Congress clearly has the authority to regulate the health insurance market, including protecting consumers from insurance industry abuses and reducing costs for families, seniors and businesses."
Judge Vinson's ruling does not halt implementation of the law. The appeal was brought by 29 states with Republican governors and attorneys general. The case will now proceed to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the four rulings since the measure was made law and is evenly divided.
While the Republican majority of the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Act just before the State of the Union address, President Barack Obama made it clear that while technical improvements are welcomed, the Affordable Care Act will not be repealed because it is helping millions of people to receive care they otherwise had been denied.
Arguing from the House floor last week, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, again called for expansion of Medicare to every American as the best solution to achieve health care, which is a basic human right.
Just after Monday's ruling U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., announced that he will hold hearings on the constitutionality of the Act later this week.
"Sen. Durbin, one of the law's biggest proponents, will argue that the bill is constitutional and that legal challenges to the legislation are driven by partisan opposition to its reforms," his office said in a statement.
The American Constitution Society (ACS) and the Center for American Progress emphasized in a press call that the ruling by Vinson, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, would most likely be overturned.
"The idea that congress lacks the authority to regulate [the health care industry] is a truly astonishing proposition," said Walter E. Dellinger, former solicitor general.
"The regulation at issue here is part of a comprehensive scheme to regulate economic and commercial matters that affect one sixth of the national economy," he said, adding that major legislation including the Social Security Act and the minimum wage have routinely been struck down by courts before they have been upheld.
Over 125 law professors issued a statement last week affirming that Congress' power to regulate the health care market is "unambiguous."
HCAN, a nationwide coalition of more than 1,000 groups in 46 states representing 30 million people, led a massive grassroots organizing campaign that led to the passage of the national health care reform. The two-year fight against the interests of insurance and pharmaceutical companies was a major breakthrough in the long-term struggle for universal, quality health care for all.
The full statement by HCAN follows:
"Judge Vinson gave Republican governors and attorneys general what they wanted, a decision that advances the GOP's extremist agenda to return control of our health care to the insurance companies. This is judicial activism on steroids. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court will have the final say on the legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, and it has corrected such lower-court mistakes when other major laws like Social Security, the minimum wage law and the Voting Rights Act were passed. Two other federal district judges have already upheld the new health care law.
"Congress clearly has the authority to regulate the health insurance market, including protecting consumers from insurance industry abuses and reducing costs for families, seniors and businesses. The best way to protect consumers and control costs is to make sure everyone has health insurance, and that's what the Affordable Care Act does.
"With consumers already benefiting from the law, this litigation is really about the Republican Party protecting health insurance company profits at the expense of working families. The Republican politicians who marched in lockstep to bring this suit aren't really interested in the new law's individual-responsibility rule. This lawsuit is just another tactic in the Republican Party's campaign to give our health care back to the insurance companies no matter what the cost.
"The American people will not allow the courts or the Congress to bring us back to the time when insurance companies could exclude people because of pre-existing conditions, drop people for getting sick, or let benefit caps force people with serious diseases into bankruptcy."
Photo: Pepe Lozano/PW