Federal judge with medical industry investments rules against health care law

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U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, who ruled Monday that the health care reform law is unconstitutional, holds financial investments in health and medicine worth as much as $75,000.

In his 78-page opinion, Vinson said the section of the health care law that requires Americans to obtain health insurance exceeds the regulatory powers granted to Congress.

A Center for Public Integrity review of Vinson’s 2009 financial disclosure forms reveals that he has several financial investments in health care industries. They include:

  • Geovax Laboratories, a biotech company specializing in vaccine research.
  • Matrixx Laboratories, an over-the-counter health care company and maker of Zicam.
  • Myriad Genetics, which specializes in advanced genetic testing for cancer.
  • Watson, a pharmaceutical company with over $3 billion in revenue.
  • HCP, which invests in real estate serving the health care industry.

Each of the five investments is worth $15,000 or less, according to the broad financial categories required by the financial disclosure form.

In December, the Center for Public Integrity found that three other judges presiding over health care reform lawsuits had financial investments in the medical industry. Vinson and Judge Henry Hudson of Virginia are the two judges to rule against the health care law. Both were appointed by Ronald Reagan. Two other judges, appointed by Bill Clinton, have upheld the health care reform law. Other challenges are pending.

In his ruling, Vinson, based in Florida, wrote, “Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire act must be declared void. This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications. At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled ‘The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.’ ”

UPDATE — 2/1/2011: Through a court employee, Vinson declined to comment.

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