Healthcare Reform Update: Well, Sh*t, I Guess We’re Going To The Supreme Court

Hey remember earlier this month when we tried to explain the current status of healthcare reform in America despite not really understanding it ourselves? If you don’t have the wherewithal to click over, here’s the basic situation:

+ Republican opposition to healthcare reform is suddenly more viable because of the new Republican majority in the House

+ Still, even that majority isn’t enough to repeal the Affordable Care Act on its own

+ The only real threat to the ACA would be if its ‘individual mandate’ clause, which requires every US citizen to have healthcare, was declared unconstitutional. This would have to be done by the Supreme Court.

Do you see where this is headed?

A Florida judge has ruled that the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, upholding a similar legal challenge from Texas and 25 other states.

Accepting a fundamental claim in the states’ lawsuit, Vinson said Congress “exceeded the bounds of its authority” by requiring Americans to have insurance by 2014. He also ruled that the “individual mandate” could not be stripped out to make the statute constitutional, thus voiding the entire law.

“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void,” Vinson wrote in his 78-page ruling. “This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications.”

The “indeterminable implications” he’s talking about refer to the likelihood of this case moving to the Supreme Court – as seems pretty likely. The question of whether Obama’s individual mandate that every American have health insurance by 2014 is constitutional may come to define what the healthcare industry and experience becomes in America; even more formidable, it may come to change the relationship between the government and the people in ways that we can’t predict.

Perhaps the weirdest and saddest part of this story is how reluctant Vinson himself seems about the ruling – while the left is painting this as a case of “judicial overreach,” Vinson seems genuinely regretful at having handed this decision down, like he may have acted in opposition to his personal beliefs – the opposite of an ‘activist judge. “The Act, like a defectively designed watch, needs to be redesigned and reconstructed by the watchmaker,” Vinson said. The right is celebrating this as a validation of their longstanding opposition to the act; in reality, it seems more like a begrudging confession that the Affordable Care Act can’t fit into the framework we have for it. It sounds like he’s shaking his head and saying “I’m sorry.”

Unfortunately, once it’s in the courts it’s pretty much out of our hands and his; the only thing to do for any of us, regardless of your stance on the Affordable Care Act, is to watch and wait. So we’ll be here, watching and waiting, and we hope you’ll be here with us too, because what are friends for if not to bite their nails through high-profile Supreme Court cases together?

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


    • If everyone else has health care, we might have to give it to brown people, and the world would end.

  1. I love that Autostraddle covers healthcare. It makes me feel more informed and I think it also makes the website well-rounded to cover such a diverse range of topics. Hooray Autostraddle!

  2. not gonna lie, i never loved the individual mandate. it felt like they were taking a right and turning it into a punishment of sorts.
    but i still don’t feel right about the supreme court being the place where they decide the fate of healthcare. especially the current panel of judges. their decisions have been pretty icky (corporations are people too, apparently. i’m still not over that)

  3. Ugh, bloody Republicans. I only really know about the US healthcare system from documentaries like ‘Sicko’ and occasional newspaper commentary but it sounds a pretty awful situation. I’m from the UK. I don’t know if you’re getting to hear about what’s happening to us. We currently have a Conservative-Liberal coalition government(long, horrible story) and they are aiming to cut public healthcare and privatise our National Health Service. It is a really frightening predicament. We plan to protest and demonstrate and can only hope they won’t be successful. I truly hope that the ACA gets passed in America.

  4. Question.

    Would it possible for them to just deem the specific clause of the law unconstitutional, and not have to scrap the whole thing? Because despite the individual coverage mandate, the law does a lot of great things (including allowing me to be able to get healthcare coverage through my parents while taking time off from school.)

    • “He also ruled that the “individual mandate” could not be stripped out to make the statute constitutional, thus voiding the entire law.” So . . . sounds like the way it’s written, that part is not severable from the rest of the law — it’s all or nothing. But possibly there’s room for a different interpretation?

    • I tried to find the link to the article I read, but couldn’t find it. Anyway, basically someone fucked up the bill. Usually bills like this contain a statement or whatever that indicates that even if one of the clauses is found to be unconstitutional, it won’t affect other parts of the law. Apparently this kind of practice is so basic that everyone sort of follows it without even considering such statement could not possibly not in the law. However apparently when the bill was suggested, someone fucked it up and didn’t include the line and because of political chaos we were in, Dems decided to just go for it instead of starting anew and include the line and change everything to fit the situation.

    • in the virginia case, which also said it wasn’t constitutional, the judge held that mandate was “severable.” so more than one way to read it.

  5. Out-of-control activist judge single-handedly overturns healthcare reform. #Headlinesyouwontseeinmainstreammedia

  6. Do people really not want to be healthy? Considering all of the health magazines and segments on tv its hard to believe that health is not a priority in this country! Healthcare is such a necessity to health (especially those in critical condition), I don’t understand how someone wouldn’t want it.

    • when people in the media urge people to be healthy, i get the feeling they want people to be thin and toned. i mean, when kim kardashian and the situation are plastered all over gmc they’re not trying to push people to be healthy, they want people to “look good”.

  7. Am so pissed about this. What the FUCK is so bad about people being able to see a doctor for life-saving treatment (without having to go into debt)? I am currently uninsured, my parents’ insurance doesn’t cover me because I’m out of state, and I’m just HOPING I don’t get strep throat again or twist my ankle on the Chicago ice or any number of things that could be catastrophically expensive.

    Also, I’m not a legal expert but what’s so illegal about an individual mandate? The federal government already requires individual Americans to do certain things–pay taxes, complete the Census–and states impose categorical mandates. Florida, in fact, requires women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound; that sounds like an individual mandate to me.

    Anybody here a US law student or understand this better?

    • I’m a law student, but i don’t claim to understand healthcare…but hell, i’ll give a go to some of ur questions.

      The issue isn’t should people have healthcare, it is whether the federal government can make people have(pay for) healthcare, to which this judge pretty much said “Technically, no.”

      They kinda sound like the same question to regular people with human brains, but they are not in the ultra confusing land of American jurisprudence. I haven’t finished reading the Judge’s opinion, but it is pretty well written and user friendly as far as judicial opinions go. I highly recommend you give a read even tho its 78 pages and it probably won’t answer all ur questions and might make u really frustrated with our government.

      Anywho, the legal argument against the healthcare law is essentially that the federal government is one of limited powers. It can only do what the Constitution says it can, nothing else, and all other rights and powers belong to the individual state governments. The fed gov’t regulates all kinds of things to individuals and mandates the states do all sorts of things (usually under the Commerce Clause and the Spending Clause), but the Judge said that in this case, Congress was too sloppy in circumventing the rules.

      Oh, and the tax thing. thats specifically allowed by the US Const. in the 16th Amendment, thats why u always have to pay the IRS but not always the state… And states can pretty much make you do anything (look at an ultrasound) or prevent you from doing anything (like get married) unless its unconstitutional according to the Supreme Court or the federal gov’t has preempted the field.

      I hope that made sense…I should soo be working now.

      • Thanks, that makes lots of sense! Something tells me you’re gonna be great at law :)

        I suspected it might have to do w/ states’ rights, since that would explain why Massachusetts can require health insurance. But thanks for the background explanation!

        • Yeah, and just to add on to that great explanation w/r/t your state question: the commerce cause, which is the power the federal government would be using, is for the regulation of intERstate commerce. And some people argue that healthcare is intRA state commerce because apparently the way healthcare works is that one has to buy healthcare in one’s state. (i know nothing about healthcare, so hopefully someone will correct me if i’m wrong.) And then lots of people think that the argument that healthcare “commerce” only operates within a state is insane because obvs healthcare is a national issue.

          Also the commerce clause regulates “activity” and some people question whether not doing something is “activity.”

  8. Fuckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk

  9. health care reform doesnt bring me any benefit cause i’m not an American although ive been living here (w/ my student visa) for more than 5 years now. Nonetheless, I’d still like to see Affordable Care Act to be something good and beneficial for the Americans.
    Why can’t they just give it a chance?? le sigh

  10. health care vs. health insurance.

    the insurance companies are obstacles to health care. they “suck up all the money” as obama put it, and there are no real guarantees for coverage/quality. premiums are just gonna skyrocket even more. we need universal health care, not a universal individual mandate that forces us to shore up the bottom line of the health insurance behemoths. this kind of BS law is a godsend to the insurance companies.

    i live in MA, and the insurance companies were already asking to increase premiums before the law even went into effect. costs of health care and premiums have risen consistently, but quality and availability of care has not. all we are doing is padding the bottom line for corporations. if people can’t afford their premiums, they are subsidized by taxpayers. so the taxpayer who can afford to pay their own premiums is also being taxed to pay for others’. we are being forced to support multibillion dollar corporations, who are enjoying generous profits, thank you very much! money is being extracted from us as taxpayers to feed insurance companies, at our own expense. this law was put in place by the ROMNEY administration here in MA. hello?! That should give you an idea of who it was meant to benefit. He did this prior to running for President to keep those campaign contributions coming. Much like Obama planning for a 2nd term.

    without a public option or just straight up universal health care, this is just another way that we as citizens and taxpayers have been fooled into taking care of corporations and making sure they stay nice and rich at our expense.

  11. Pingback: Vandy Law Alum’s Nonsensical Judgment on Health Reform Constitutionality – Nashville Scene | Health Insurance News

Comments are closed.