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Key Provision of Health Care Law Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules

3 years ago
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In a major blow to the White House, a federal judge in Virginia ruled Monday that a key provision of the new national health care reform law is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson said that forcing individuals to purchase health insurance was in violation of the Constitution's "commerce clause," The Washington Post reported.

The courts cannot enforce the law's requirement that Americans be fined if they don't have health insurance by 2014, the judge said in a 42-page opinion.

health care reform"Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market," Hudson wrote. "In doing so, enactment of the [individual mandate] exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I [of the Constitution.]"

While Hudson ruled the so-called "individual mandate" unconstitutional, he did say that other broad portions of the law are legal and can go forward. Because the mandate doesn't go into effect for four years, the judge said he saw no reason to halt implementation of the law as a whole.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed in Virginia by state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. He argued on the AG's website that "buying health insurance can be said to be an act of commerce. However, if someone doesn't buy insurance, they are by definition not engaging in commerce. This legislation greatly oversteps the Commerce Clause."

Twenty states and the conservative National Federation of Independent Businesses are challenging the sweeping law's controversial insurance mandate. Insurance companies say they would lose money without the requirement, but the lawsuit claims it's an abuse of federal power because it would penalize people for not insuring themselves.

Obama's initiative to overhaul the nation's $2.5 trillion health care system passed in March after a long and contentious process.

Hudson is the third district court judge to reach a determination on the merits of lawsuits filed against the health law The others -- in Detroit and Lynchburg, Va. -- have upheld the law. Lawyers on both sides said the appellate process could last another two years before the Supreme Court settles the dispute.
Hudson has a long history in Republican politics in Northern Virginia, and his decision seemed to underscore the White House's contention that such lawsuits are more political assaults than constitutional challenges, the New York Times reported.


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554 Comments

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L. W

If insurance is at a reasonible price i think anyone should have insurance. I wouldnt want to be without insurance with the sickness i have had the last several years.

January 17 2011 at 11:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
opw1

This plan relies heavily on the revenue derived from mandatory insurance payments. If this portion is eliminated the system should be about as financially sound as social security, public pensions, medicare, Amtrak and almost every commuter system in the country. In other words, broken from day one.

December 20 2010 at 2:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nusoft2472

Same problem with Social Security. We are forced to buy in to the governments retirement plan.

December 19 2010 at 8:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
heinerscar

It's too bad no one's discussing or feels informed enough to discuss the actual Constitutional question before Judge Hudson. (We'd hope our media would help inform us here.) Here's the summary: The administration argued that if you, an individual, don't buy their gov't-mandated insurance policy, you're interfering with commerce between the States. Since Congress has the constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce, they reason, Congress can force you to buy whatever insurance they want. The counterpoint is that Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce in no way permits Congress to demand that you buy things you don't want, or force you to enter into commerce--that creates an all-powerful unlimited government that can make you do anything. For example, the administration's position is that Congress can demand that you buy their insurance. They could also order you to buy a GM car. The administration's argument could justify a future Congress (and President Palin) ordering you do anything they want, really. Congress could order you to buy tomatoes, or raise and sell them or be fined. So, that's the summary. (Too bad we can't format these comments--sorry for the one giant paragraph.)

December 18 2010 at 7:23 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
wesxauto

In my county we have a tax funded ambulance service and a tax funded county hospital. You can call for an ambulance to take you to the hospital for a hangnail and they cannot refuse to take you and the hospital cannot refuse to treat you and if you demand you are in pain they have to give you meds. Then for your ride home they can pay county transit $1.00. This system is broken because the freeloaders play this system for all its worth. 75% of the calls are for non emergency but keep this system straped and over budgit. How do you cure this.

December 16 2010 at 12:42 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
rdd2897

By the constution we have the right to buy insurance any where we want also we can buy drugs anywhere we want to if you are going to use the constution then use it all the way not just to satisy a few

December 15 2010 at 8:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rdd2897

If this law is found unconstutional it will open up a whole new can of worms . L ike the law on driverlicens , taxes ,which is unconstutinol already

December 15 2010 at 8:41 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
Greg

Good health care is going to be prohibitively expensive for many Americans, no matter what anyone in the White House says. If everyone was forced to buy the exact same health care (each and every citizen at every income level in every occupation in every state, sort of like each and every citizen has to pay a payroll tax), then fine. But my problem is that each and every citizen will not have access, no matter what, to the same health care. As a citizen, for example, of Texas, why should I be forced to buy insurance in the state of Texas that isn't as good as insurance, for example, in Oklahoma?

December 15 2010 at 4:20 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
rickpetersonms

How bad would it be if we teenagers waited until they had careers to get married, then waited until they had the resources to take care of a family before they got pregnant? How bad would it be if everyone's taxes were lower because the extended family, churches and private charity stepped in for unplanned emergencies?
It worked from the Caveman's day until Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Chairman Mow, Pol Pot, Wilson, FDR, Johnson, Bush and Obama decided they could take better care of us than we can ourselves.

December 15 2010 at 10:10 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
cruisedoc

Joe: I hear you, but, while hospital no-pays drive everyones costs up, the reason you pay $4 is to cover the actual cost. That includes the cost to order, inventory, stock, and administer. If a nurse ($45 an hr. + benefits = $65 an hr.) puts it on ...there's your $4. Without no-pays it might be $3.50, but no less. Can't compare auto ins. 1st, that's a state mandate & states have much broader statutory power than the fed. constitution. 2nd, driving is a privelege. The judge ruled, and I believe rightly so, that the commerce clause doesn't apply. 1st, the clause was intended (read James Madison, the author) to prevent stat from imposing tarrifs on imports from other states. Don't forget, states were then like individual countries. The judge also noted that: 1. Intrastate commerce (commerce clause) is NOT in play, since many states do not allow you to purchase health ins. out-of-state. 2. The failure to purchase something is NOT commerce. This will go to the Supreme Court - it will be a 5-4 decision. ....unfortunately, along party lines.

December 14 2010 at 4:50 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

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