Calling it a victory, Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder commended a federal judge in Virginia who ruled the mandate to buy health insurance — a key provision of the federal health care reform law — is unconstitutional.
“Today’s ruling is a victory not only for the people of the United States, but also for the freedoms we hold so dear,” Kinder said in a statement, adding the ruling strengthens his lawsuit, which currently awaits a hearing in a Missouri federal courtroom.
U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson found that the federal government could not force individuals to buy health insurance.
“Judge Hudson’s ruling confirms what many of us believed to be true nearly one year ago; that Congress overstepped their authority in mandating that every American purchase health insurance,” Kinder said. He said that Monday’s ruling boosts the efforts of 20 states that will bring similar legal arguments before another federal judge in Florida on Thursday.
The attorney general’s office did not respond to a request for comment from Missouri Watchdog.
What does this mean for Missouri?
The federal health care mandate to buy insurance does not go into effect until 2014. The ruling on whether it is constitutional will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, most likely in 2013, said Elizabeth Price Foley, a law professor at Florida International University, who specializes in constitutional and health care law.
The Virginia case, along with a ruling by a federal judge in Michigan in favor of the mandate, will go next to a federal court of appeals. Once a federal judge makes a decision in the Florida case, expected early next year, it will also go to a federal court of appeals.
“My guess is that he’s going to be the fifth vote” to side with the plaintiffs, Foley told Missouri Watchdog, meaning residents in Missouri will not be required to buy health care insurance starting in 2014.
But if Kennedy sides with the federal government, the decision will then be the law of the land and residents in Missouri will be required to buy health care insurance, even though voters passed Proposition C — the first statewide vote concerning the federal government’s 2010 health care reform law — in the August election.
“Prop C is unenforceable as a legal matter, if the federal courts rule that health reform is constitutional,” Foley said. “It is a statement of protest. But they have no legal grounds if the federal reform law is constitutional.”