Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


Individual mandate unconstitutional

OLYMPIA — A Florida judge today ruled that Congress exceeded its Constitutional authority in approving a new health care mandate requiring all US citizens to have or purchase health insurance or face a fine. The ruling overturns the entire law.

“The existing problems in our national health care system are recognized by everyone in this case,” said US District Court Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida in his 78-page ruling.  “There is widespread sentiment for positive improvements that will reduce costs, improve the quality of care, and expand availability in a way that the nation can afford.

“Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the Act, Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution,” he said. “My conclusion in this case is based on an application of the Commerce Clause as it exists pursuant to the Supreme Court’s current interpretation and definition. Only the Supreme Court (or a Constitutional amendment) can expand that.

Attorney General Rob McKenna, who joined the 26-state suit on behalf of the state of Washington, called the ruling a victory for individual and state rights.

“While we all recognize the vital need to access health care services in our country, forcing all U.S. citizens to buy a commercial product in the private market with their own money is an unprecedented and unconstitutional move by the federal government,” said Attorney General Rob McKenna. “Americans value their constitutional rights. They want a health care law that respects those rights and actually reduces the financial burdens on their families. That is why more than half of the states in America are challenging this new law.”

McKenna will hold a media availability in his Olympia office at 3 p.m. today.

  • What:  Media availability regarding today’s ruling in the 26-state lawsuit challenging the federal    health care reform law
  • When:  3 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 31
  • Where:  Attorney General Rob McKenna’s Olympia Office, 1125 Washington Street
  • Conference Call (contact Janelle Guthrie for dial-in information)

The multi-state suit, filed in March 2010 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, challenged:

  • The unprecedented and unconstitutional requirement that all Americans must obtain or purchase private health care insurance or face a fine; and
  • The massive expansion of the Medicaid program which will unconstitutionally require states to spend billions more at a time when state budgets are already in crisis.

The states presented their case before Vinson in Florida on Dec. 16, 2010. Six new states joined the suit on January 18. Virginia has mounted its own separate challenge to the new law and Oklahoma has announced its intention to do the same. US District Court Judge Henry Hudson for the Eastern District of Virginia in December sided with Virginia in finding the individual mandate unconstitutional.

The US Department of Justice now has 60 days to appeal the decision.

The 26 states in the suit include: Florida, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Additional plaintiffs include the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and two individuals.


For more information on the multi-state lawsuit visit:

• Janelle Guthrie, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725