Tea Party analogy? Check. Head-scratching analysis? Check. Judge Vinson wrote:
"... the mere status of being without health insurance, in and of itself, has absolutely no impact whatsoever on interstate commerce (not 'slight,' 'trivial,' or 'indirect,' but no impact whatsoever) -- at least not any more so than the status of being without any particular good or service. If impact on interstate commerce were to be expressed and calculated mathematically, the status of being uninsured would necessarily be represented by zero. Of course, any other figure multiplied by zero is also zero. Consequently, the impact must be zero, and of no effect on interstate commerce.
The uninsured can only be said to have a substantial effect on interstate commerce in the manner as described by the defendants: (i) if they get sick or injured; (ii) if they are still uninsured at that specific point in time; (iii) if they seek medical care for that sickness or injury; (iv) if they are unable to pay for the medical care received; and (v) if they are unable or unwilling to make payment arrangements directly with the health care provider, or with assistance of family, friends, and charitable groups, and the costs are thereafter shifted to others."
Got that? The uninsured can only have a "substantial effect on interstate commerce" -- and thus be regulated by Congress -- if they are subject to the precise conditions which exist today all over the country, and which prompted the Act in the first place. The judge acknowledges this point, to his credit, saying that the Congress would of course have the power to regulate the millions of people who meet his five criteria above. But he then concludes: "But, to cast the net wide enough to reach everyone in the present, with the expectation that they will (or could) take those steps in the future, goes beyond the existing 'outer limits' of the Commerce Clause" (emphasis in original).
I suspect there will be a million words of legal and political analysis over the logic and viability of that conclusion.
Unsolicited and simplistic recommendations for the legislative branch? Also check. Judge Vinson wrote: "If Congress intends to implement health care reform -- and there would appear to be widespread agreement across the political spectrum that reform is needed -- it should do a comprehensive examination of the Act and make a legislative determination as to which of its hundreds of provisions and sections will work as intended without the individual mandate, and which will not." In other words: Try again, Congress, and good luck with that!
Painfully half-hearted expression of regret for kicking the entire Affordable Care Act to the curb? Check. Judge Vinson wrote: "I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate. That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and inequities in our health care system. The health care market is more than one sixth of the national economy, and without doubt Congress has the power to reform and regulate this market. That has not been disputed in this case. The principal dispute has been about how Congress chose to exercise that power here" (emphasis added).