Third Federal Judge Upholds Health Reform Law

by Rebecca Farley on February 23, 2011

A federal judge in the District of Columbia this week dismissed a challenge to the Affordable Care Act, on the grounds that the law does not violate the Constitution. D.C. Federal Court Judge Gladys Kessler wrote in her opinion that the individual mandate provision of the law “serves a compelling public interest,” and the government “has a compelling interest in safeguarding the public health by regulating the health care and insurance markets.” This ruling brings the number of federal judges who have upheld the law to three, compared to two judges who have struck it down. A dozen cases have been thrown out based on procedural grounds.

Meanwhile, the federal government has filed a motion with Florida Judge Roger Vinson requesting that he clarify whether he intended to halt implementation of the law when he ruled in January that the law’s requirement for individuals to purchase health insurance was unconstitutional. Rather than striking down this single provision, Vinson’s ruling struck down the entire law. Governors of several states have used his decision as the basis to argue that they no longer have to implement health reform. Most recently, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has said he will not apply for federal grants needed to implement the health insurance exchange because of Judge Vinson’s ruling.

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