Yesterday afternoon, a third federal district judge ruled that the personal responsibility clause in the Affordable Care Act is indeed constitutional.
The American Center for Law and Justice filed the suit against the Justice Department on behalf of five individuals who refuse to buy insurance, claiming that the individual responsibility provision is unconstitutional and violates their religious freedom. U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Gladys Kessler rejected this argument, stating that this provision is authorized by the commerce clause in Article I, section 8 of the Constitution.
Judge Kessler stated in her opinion that not buying health insurance was an active decision on the consumer's part and has serious consequences, as it ends up affecting those who do have insurance. She notes that the uncompensated costs are passed on to the insurers, which are then passed on to the consumer, raising costs for everyone.
In a footnote, she writes,
In short, those who choose not to purchase health insurance will ultimately get a "free ride" on the backs of those Americans who have made responsible choices to provide for the illness we all must face at some point in our lives.
And she's right. Cost-shifting increases family premiums by an average of $1,017 per year.
With respect to court challenges, the judicial scoreboard now stands at 3-1-1. That's three full substantive victories for the Act, one partial victory-partial loss, and one defeat -- plus a dozen procedural victories.
And while the media has flocked to cover judicial rulings against the Affordable Care Act in both Virginia and Florida, it's important to note that those cases are no more important than those in favor of the law. But opponents of reform don't want you to know that. They'd like you to believe that rulings against the Affordable Care Act have more significance than those upholding the law.
The sad reality for opponents of health reform is that scoreboard is now 3-1-1 in favor of upholding the Affordable Care Act: three wins, one loss (Judge Vinson's decision in Florida striking down the whole law) and one partial victory (Judge Hudson in Virginia struck down the individual responsibility provision but left the rest of the law in place).
Ultimately, it will be up to the Supreme Court to decide the constitutionality of the law.
Here's a reminder of just a few of the benefits Americans could if conservatives succeed in striking down the Affordable Care Act:
• Insurance companies could continue to game the system, accepting premiums from consumers for years, and then rescinding their policy when they get sick or need coverage the most. Additionally, they could continue to get away with spending less and less of our premiums dollars on actual medical care, instead spending it on things like "administrative costs" and lining the pockets of Insurance Companies' CEOs.
• Women could be charged more simply because of their sex. Before health care reform, women in the individual market could be charged as much as 140% more than men just because they're female. And what's more, some insurance companies could get away with denying a woman health care because she was a victim of domestic abuse.
• Young adults, who graduate college only to find a job market that has little room for them, would no longer have the option of staying on their parents' plan until age 26. That means they'd have to risk going without coverage or fork over what little savings they have to purchase health insurance.
We can't go back to that system. And much to the chagrin of conservatives, who have tried to gain political points by preventing implementation of the law at every turn, the Affordable Care Act will continue to be implemented across the country --benefiting millions of Americans every single day.