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Federal Judge in Florida Rules Health Care Law Unconstitutional

His decision won't end the legal battle over reform

A federal judge in Florida on Monday ruled President Barack Obama's landmark health care law is unconstitutional because it requires all Americans to purchase health care insurance.

But the law will most probably remain in effect and continue to be implemented as the case works its way through the judicial system.
A Justice Department spokeswoman, Tracy Schmaler said the government plans to appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and is considering whether to seek a stay of the judge’s order while the appeal is pending.

"We strongly disagree with the court’s ruling today and continue to believe — as other federal courts have found — that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional," Schmaler said in a statement. "There is clear and well-established legal precedent that Congress acted within its constitutional authority in passing this law and we are confident that we will ultimately prevail on appeal."

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, who was appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan, was the second federal judge to rule against the law. Vinson wrote that because the requirement — to start buying health insurance in 2014 or pay a fee — was unconstitutional, the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act "must be declared void."

"This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications," Vinson wrote. "At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down" the law.

Governors and attorneys general from 25 states — all but one Republican — had joined Florida and a national business association in seeking the health law's dismissal. The case, Florida v. HHS, is the most prominent of about 20 other challenges to law.

Two other federal judges, appointed by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, have upheld the health care law.

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