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Federal judge sides with states in federal health care challenge

A Florida judge yesterday (Monday) ruled that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority in approving a new health care mandate requiring all U.S. citizens to have or purchase health insurance or face a fine.

"The existing problems in our national health care system are recognized by everyone in this case," said U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida in his 78-page ruling.

He said, "There is widespread sentiment for positive improvements that will reduce costs, improve the quality of care and expand availability in a way that the nation can afford.

"Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the (Affordable Care) Act, Congress must operate within the bounds established by the constitution," Vinson said.

"My conclusion in this case is based on an application of the Commerce Clause as it exists pursuant to the Supreme Court's current interpretation and definition. Only the Supreme Court (or a constitutional amendment) can expand that."

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, who joined the 26-state suit on behalf of the state, called the ruling a victory for individual and state rights.

"While we all recognize the vital need to access health care services in our country, forcing all U.S. citizens to buy a commercial product in the private market with their own money is an unprecedented and unconstitutional move by the federal government," said McKenna.

He said, "Americans value their constitutional rights. They want a health care law that respects those rights and actually reduces the financial burdens on their families. That is why more than half of the states in America are challenging this new law."

The U.S. Department of Justice now has 60 days to appeal the decision.

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