As in some other states, plaintiffs in Florida are challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The plaintiffs in the Florida case made several claims, but the two that appear to be significant include:
The decision has four major elements to it.
This decision was not a huge surprise and doesn’t really alter the course the case will now take. Barring a motion for expedited review of the case directly to the U.S. Supreme Court being filed and granted, the next step will be an appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeal and, after that, to the Supreme Court. Due to the earlier Virginia and Michigan rulings, this process has already been underway.
However, Judge Vinson’s ruling on severability and emphasis on the implications of his declaratory judgment raise questions regarding ongoing implementation of health reform. The Federal government clearly could not actually put the individual mandate into effect at this point – it doesn’t go into effect until 2014. It is unclear whether all other health reform implementation work would be barred by the declaratory judgment. In any event, to avoid the risk of being seen as noncompliant with a judicial order, the Federal government may ask that the decision be stayed, or put on hold until the appeals are completed.
Notably, State governments are not bound by this decision. Given the uncertainty of the final outcome and the limited window of time to implement reform, a state faces risks if it stops implementation work. Potential consequences include loss of federal funding or federal control of State health insurance exchanges.
For reasons states should consider continuing implementation, see NHeLP’s list of 10 Reasons to Say Yes To Implementation.
This information was developed by Jane Perkins, legal director for the Network for Public Health Law – Southeastern Region at National Health Law Program.
The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided in this document does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state.