Richmond U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson has denied the federal government’s motion to dismiss the Commonwealth of Virginia’s lawsuit that challenges Section 1501 of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act.
Section 1501 is the “Minimum Essential Coverage Provision,” that requires individuals to buy health insurance or face a “noncompliance penalty.”
Hudson said the commonwealth, represented by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, has Article III standing to pursue the litigation, and that “the Commerce Clause aspect of this debate raises issues of national significance. The position of the parties are widely divergent and at times novel. The guiding precedent is informative, but inconclusive.
“Never before has the Commerce Clause and associated Necessary and Proper Clause been extended this far,” the court said. Virginia’s challenge under Congressional taxing powers “raises an even closer and equally unsettled issue,” Hudson wrote.
The “complex constitutional issues” in the case “all seem to distill to the single question of whether or not Congress has the power to regulate — and tax — a citizen’s decision not to participate in interstate commerce. Neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor any circuit court of appeals has squarely addressed this issue. No reported case from any federal appellate court has extended the Commerce Clause or Tax Clause to include the regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, notwithstanding its effect on interstate commerce,” Hudson wrote in his opinion denying the motion to dismiss filed by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
By Deborah Elkins