A U.S. District Court judge in Virginia has ruled a provision of the health care reform law is unconstitutional. It is the provision that mandates all Americans have a minimum level of coverage, or pay a fine if they do not.
The Los Angeles Times reports Judge Henry Hudson said the mandate exceeds federal authority. This challenge, among many in the federal court system, was brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli who argued against the government’s view that the mandate is enforceable under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson denied a request from Virginia Atty. Gen. Ken Cuccinelli, the lead plaintiff, to stop implementation of the law while higher courts consider the case.
But the ruling by Hudson, a Republican appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, strikes the most serious legal blow to the law thus far and moves the case toward an expected showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps in 2012.
The core of the state of Virginia’s lawsuit is the unprecedented insurance mandate in the new law, which will require most Americans to get health insurance starting in 2014 and penalize those who do not.
The requirement is seen as critical by most health policy experts because it would spread risk more broadly, controlling insurance premiums for everyone and allowing federal government to prohibit insurers from denying coverage to higher-risk Americans with preexisting medical conditions.
Without a mandate, Americans would be able to buy insurance only when they got sick, driving up premiums, a phenomenon that has occurred in several states that have guaranteed coverage without any requirement.
Obama administration lawyers have defended the mandate as permissible under what is known as the Commerce Clause, which gives the federal government broad powers to regulate interstate economic activity.
But conservatives have countered that the new law oversteps this authority by requiring Americans to obtain a specific product, something that has never before been mandated by the federal government.
Hudson was unequivocal in his 42-page decision.
“Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause power to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market,” the judge concluded.
He added: “Despite the laudable intentions of Congress in enacting a comprehensive and transformative healthcare regime, the legislative process must still operate within constitutional bounds.”
I would hope clear thinking people will relax and let the courts decide this issue rather than working themselves into a lather from fear spread by opponents who oppose virtually every aspect of the health care reform legislation.
One popular myth circulated by these fearmongers is the law exempts Muslims from mandatory insurance coverage. It is a practice called dhimmitude that purveyors of this nonsense says appears on page 105 of the new law.
In April, snopes.com clarified and deflated the perceived favoritism considered an affront to Christians and Jews.
Jerry Remmers worked 26 years in the newspaper business. His last 23 years was with the Evening Tribune in San Diego where assignments included reporter, assistant city editor, county and politics editor.