Judge strikes mandate, takes new approach to 'severability'

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Policy experts from all sides of the healthcare debate — including the administration — agree that those three provisions work together. The mandate serves to get healthy people into the risk pool, offsetting the cost of covering sick people.

The Justice Department has faced that contradiction in oral arguments, noted Timothy Jost, Washington and Lee University law professor. Administration lawyers have argued that the mandate is legal because it’s necessary to achieving the goals of healthcare reform, while simultaneously making the case that it’s severable from the rest of the law.

Still, among the myriad lawsuits over the mandate, Conner is the first judge to rule that the three provisions are inseparable as a matter of law, not just policy.

Although he struck down the individual mandate, Conner made a point not to endorse the winning side’s end-of-days rhetoric. The initial complaint called the healthcare law “the physical manifestation of tyranny in the modern era” and said that letting it stand would amount to “transforming the President and Congress into the financial slave-masters of he American people.”

That kind of bombast is “unproductive and unpersuasive,” Conner wrote.