Health Reform Ruling Appealed; Expedited Hearing Expected

Insurance News Net reports:

“The Obama administration officially appealed a federal judge’s order overturning the Affordable Care Act, setting the stage for further legal proceedings within months.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion for expedited appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on March 8. The motion followed U.S District Court Judge Roger Vinson’sMarch 3 order staying his own Jan. 31 ruling that the entire health reform act, not just the individual mandate to carry health insurance, is unconstitutional. Vinson gave the administration one week to file the expedited appeal (BestWire, March 3, 2011).

“Expedition in this case is particularly warranted because of the district court’s unprecedented severability ruling, which presents issues that the federal government has not previously addressed in appellate briefs and covers numerous provisions of the act already in effect,” Justice attorneys wrote in the court filing.

Ruling in a lawsuit brought by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business, Vinson found that the insurance mandate is “not severable” from the law as a whole and therefore the entirety had to be struck down (BestWire, Jan. 31, 2011). The Obama administration responded weeks later with a request for “clarification,” as it differed with the opinion of several states over whether Vinson’s original order was meant to be immediately effective. Vinson responded by criticizing the administration’s request and reaffirming his intention for an immediate halt to implementation of the Affordable Care Act. However, he also opted to treat the clarification filing as a request for a stay, which he granted.

Federal attorneys had cautioned that if Vinson’s order is to immediately go into effect, it would cause immediate, disruptive harm to the many provisions of the law that are now in effect, including new rules to eliminate lifetime limits on coverage; allow youths up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ policies; stop rescissions, unless fraud is involved; cover children with pre-existing conditions; and limit annual restrictions on essential coverage.

The administration also warned of confusion resulting from contradictory federal district court rulings. To date, five judges have ruled on the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality: three upheld it, one dismissed the individual mandate and Vinson tossed the entire act.