As expected, Florida U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled this week in favor of a Florida-led lawsuit filed by 26 states to block health care reform.
Vinson's ruling, like that of Virginia Judge and fellow Republican appointee Henry Hudson in December, found unconstitutional the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, that requires all Americans to obtain health insurance beginning in 2014. Unlike Hudson, Vinson ruled that the individual mandate was not severable, and therefore voided the entire act.
Two Democratically-appointed judges previously upheld the ACA, which seems to indicate that the court is evenly split on health care reform so far -- coincidentally or not, along party lines.
Legal eagles predict the fate of the ACA will ultimately come down to a 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court, with centrist Reagan nominee Justice Anthony Kennedy considered the swing vote.
But we're kidding ourselves if we think the fate of health care reform will rest on legal parsing alone, what with the nation in the throes of a tsunami of change.
Many of the reforms -- coverage for pre-existing conditions, eliminating lifetime limits, expanded coverage for young adults and early retirees, closing the Medicare prescription "doughnut hole" and free preventive care for seniors, just to name a few -- are already in place. States have received federal grants to help them build the infrastructure of their own health exchanges. Many of those states will introduce legislation this spring to provide funding next year to meet the Jan. 1, 2013, deadline to have their exchanges certified, up and running.
Bottom line? By the time the Supreme Court rules, which may not happen until 2012, much of the Affordable Care Act will be a fait accompli. Save of course for the individual mandate, which, as I find myself pointing out ad nauseam, is the one component of the act that all sides agree is essential in order to make health care reform economically feasible for the health insurance industry.
So what we're really fighting over at this point is ideology. Wednesday's pro forma defeat of repeal in the Senate pretty much ended the largely symbolic crusade in Congress to force a do-over. Now that that's done, perhaps we can move on to more constructive pursuits.
While the repeal and replace rabble-rousers will no doubt continue to rattle their Rolexes, health reform is already here, alive and kicking. To the everlasting relief of most Americans.
Do you really think the Supreme Court will vote to undo the monumental progress that has already been made as a result of health care reform and risk the potential fallout, especially in an election year?
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