January 31, 2011
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On Florida Federal Court Ruling on Healthcare Reform
A U.S. District Court judge in Florida ruled today that the healthcare reform law enacted last year is unconstitutional because of its requirement that Americans obtain health insurance. In other lawsuits, two federal courts previously have ruled that the law and its insurance mandate are permissible and do not violate the Constitution.
WASHINGTON—Today’s ruling in Florida came as no surprise. Federal Judge Roger Vinson had signaled throughout the proceedings there that he would likely uphold the challenge to the healthcare reform law filed by Florida’s attorney general. The decision would return control of our healthcare system to the insurance companies, and the American people will not stand for that.
This ruling striking down the entire law stands alone—out of the mainstream—among all the courts that have considered the issues involved. Challenges to the healthcare reform law have been dismissed outright by 12 federal judges. Two federal courts have upheld the law, and one other federal judge ruled narrowly that the health insurance mandate provision of the law was invalid.
When Congress passed healthcare reform just 10 months ago, 32 million more Americans gained a path to affordable coverage and the law curbed insurance industry abuses, including the refusal to cover everyone with pre-existing conditions. As it is fully implemented over the next few years, the Affordable Care Act will require careful analysis and, possibly, changes. But in the end, healthcare reform will remain a reality for Americans. Too much has been accomplished already that helps the American people and moves the system to a sane place where families are not forced by insurance companies to mortgage their homes in order to buy the medicine their kids need to survive.
The Florida ruling sets the stage for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and a definitive decision there. AFT members remain confident that the landmark healthcare reform law will be found valid once the legal process has run its course.
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.