Is Health Care Ruling a Game-Changer?

By: - December 14, 2010 12:00 am

A federal judge’s ruling Monday (December 13) that a key provision of the Obama administration’s new health care law is unconstitutional sparked partisan reactions around the nation, as state policymakers who are tasked with implementing the vast program weighed in on the opinion.

The ruling that Americans cannot be forced to purchase health insurance is “a great victory for our country, a great victory for those who believe in a limited form of government and constitutional constraints on what the federal government can and cannot do,” said Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal . Louisiana is among 20 states suing to stop the health care law in a separate legal challenge.

In Virginia, where Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli spearheaded the challenge that was decided at the trial-court level Monday, Democrats had a sharply different take. “While nearly 1 million Virginians, including more than 150,000 children, go without health insurance, their Attorney General is using their tax money to try eliminate their best hope of getting access to affordable health coverage,” Brian Moran, the Virginia Democratic Party chairman, said .

Of more consequence than partisan reactions is what happens next , given that two federal trial courts have now ruled in the Obama administration’s favor and one has ruled against it. At least one Medicaid director, Wisconsin’s Jason Helgerson, predicted that the ruling would lead many incoming Republican governors and legislators to slow down the already complex process of implementing the law.

“I think you might see some air taken out of the balloon nationwide,” Helgerson told The New York Times , which noted that Wisconsin will shift from all-Democratic to all-Republican rule next year.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, a Republican who opposes the health care law, provided his own suggestion Monday for how to speed up the many legal challenges aimed at the law: fast-track them directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is likely to hear them eventually anyway.

“Both sides should seek to waive a hearing in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and allow this monumental case to move immediately to the U.S. Supreme Court for prompt final resolution,” McDonnell said in a statement . “To encourage such a decision, I have asked all governors and governors-elect to join me in a letter to United States Attorney General Eric Holder asking for his agreement to an expedited review. There must be certainty and finality in order for our businesses and citizens to both know and adhere to the law.”

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, critics of the state’s existing law providing near-universal health care saw a new opportunity to challenge it in Monday’s ruling, the Boston Herald reported . Though the Massachusetts law has already been challenged unsuccessfully in court, “the rationale used to mandate Obama-care is very similar to the mandate (here),” according to former state Republican chairman James Rappaport, who believes that the federal courts could open new doors in Massachusetts. 

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