Recently, Judge Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, ruled that ObamaCare was unconstitutional in its entirety. The entire decision is worth reading. Judge Vinson’s ruling goes much further than U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson of the U.S. District Court for The Eastern District of Virginia since he only invalidated a segment of ObamaCare. I also recommend reading his decision as well.
As it stands now, two federal district court judges have upheld the law while two federal district court judges have held it unconstitutional either in part or in its entirety. The split between the federal district judges means that the United States Supreme Court will eventually have to rule on the Constitutionality of ObamaCare.
Regardless whether or not the Supreme Court will uphold or reject the constitutionality of ObamaCare, it will have no impact on the constitutionality of RomneyCare. There have been many legal challenges to have RomneyCare invalidated under Massachusetts State Consitution, known as the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights; but none of them have been successful. The most well known case, Fountas v. Dormitzer, upheld the Constitutionality RomneyCare despite having every legal challenge in the book thrown at it.
Although the case was ultimately dismissed on procedural grounds, the judge clearly explained that Mitt Romney’s health care did not violate Federal or State constitutional principle because a state can regulate health care on the basis of a state’s police power. The judge writing in Fountas v. Dormitzer explains the legal concept of police power:
“Police power” is an old fashioned term for the Commonwealth’s lawmaking authority, as bounded by the liberty and equality guarantees of the Massachusetts Constitution and its express delegation of power from the people to the government.
In other words, the federal government and the states derive their power to pass laws from two completely different sources. The federal government is limited in its ability to pass laws so long as its within its enumerated powers of the U.S. Constitution. What this means is that the federal government may exercise only those powers granted by the federal constitution. In contrast, states have a general “police power,” in which they can pass laws so long as its rationally related to promoting the health, safety, and morals of the community. The significance of this legal doctrine is that states have the ability exercise plenary power and are presumed to have all powers not expressly prohibited to them by the constitution.
The judge explains that Massachusetts was well within its police power to pass RomneyCare because “as a rational basis of fact can be reasonably conceived to sustain it, the act is a proper exercise of police power” and as a result, a “proper exercise of the police power violates no provision of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights…” The entire holding of that case can be read here.
As a result, RomneyCare will be upheld as being Constitutional under Massachusetts State Constitution or the United States Constitution, regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court decides on ObamaCare. As a matter of constitutional law, a state can impose a mandate whereas the Federal government cannot because due to the fact that state governments and the federal government derive their power to pass laws from two completely different sources. This means that there is a huge distinction between a mandate enacted by the federal government or a mandate enacted by the state legislature. As a result, RomneyCare is constitutionally valid under the United States Constitution and the Massachusetts state Constitution.
Mitt Romney has always defended his health care plan explaining that his plan was not meant to be enacted on the federal level and that states are free to structure their own health care plan. Thanks to the the recent ruling by Judge Roger Vinson, the case reaffirms Mitt’s argument that state mandates are constitutional and it helps Mitt Romney in a very big way:
One of Romney’s weak arguments was that the Massachusetts plan was fundamentally different, as a matter of policy, because it had been enacted on a state rather than federal level. The argument got little traction and Romney, after an effort in the Spring of 2010 to explain his record, simply fell silent.
Romney’s argument is now much stronger. Because the main objection to ObamaCare, as its critics call it, is no longer a matter of policy nuance. Now critics primarily make the case that it’s an unconstitutional expansion of specifically federal power. And on that turf, the similar structure of the plans doesn’t matter. Romney enacted his at a state level, and states have — conservatives argue — more power to regulate the insurance industry, as they do with car insurance.
“I’m not going to apologize for the rights of states to craft plans on a bipartisan basis to help their people,” Romney said on Good Morning America this morning, and it’s no longer a bad answer.
~ Jared A.