Vinson puts his own health care ruling on hold

VINSON PUTS HIS OWN HEALTH CARE RULING ON HOLD…. In late January, Federal District Court Judge Roger Vinson issued a bizarre ruling, striking down the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional. In addition to his strange rationales, Vinson created an unexpected problem: his decision left nearly everyone confused as to the state of the law.

Though Vinson could have issued an injunction stopping implementation of the health reform law, he didn’t. On the other hand, plenty of conservatives interpreted his decision as offering the “functional equivalent” of an injunction, meaning that the 26 states that are parties to the case could simply consider the current law null and void in their states.

In something of a gamble, the Obama administration asked Vinson to clarify matters. Today, he did.

A federal judge who struck down the entire healthcare reform law issued a stay of his ruling in order to give the Obama administration seven days to file an appeal.

The administration asked U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson for a clarification of his Jan. 31 ruling after some states said they would stop efforts to implement the law in light of his decision.

The administration is expected to file an appeal with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

This is, in other words, a procedural win for the administration and the ACA. Vinson added, however, that the Justice Department must seek an expedited appellate review of his ruling within the next seven days.

So, bottom line: the Affordable Care Act is still on the books, and whether some far-right state officials like it or not, it must still be enforced.

Update: And just for the sake of adding additional context, I should also note that five federal courts have considered the health reform law on the merits. Vinson is one of two judges to rule against the ACA; the other three found it entirely constitutional.

Second Update: The Justice Department issued a statement this afternoon on this: “We appreciate the court’s recognition of the enormous disruption that would have resulted if implementation of the Affordable Care Act was abruptly halted. We welcome the court’s granting of a stay to allow the current programs and consumer protections, including tax credits to small business and millions of dollars in federal grants to help states with health care costs, to continue pending our appeal in the Eleventh Circuit.

“We strongly disagree with the district court’s underlying ruling in this case and continue to believe — as three federal courts have found — that this law is constitutional. There is clear and well-established legal precedent that Congress acted within its constitutional authority in passing the Affordable Care Act and we are confident that we will ultimately prevail on appeal.”