In a much-anticipated decision, a Richmond U.S. District judge has struck the mandatory insurance provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Describing “an individual’s personal decision to purchase – or decline to purchase – health insurance from a private provider” as “beyond the historical reach of the Commerce Clause,” U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson granted summary judgment for the Commonwealth of Virginia, represented by Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II.
Hudson apparently is the first federal judge to strike the health care reform law. Courts in Michigan and Virginia have upheld it.
“This won’t be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution,” Cuccinelli said in a statement after the ruling.
The act’s Section 1501 is the “Minimum Essential Coverage Provision,” which requires individuals to buy health insurance or face a “noncompliance penalty.” Hudson decided to sever Section 1501 “and directly-dependent provisions which make specific references to Section 1501.”
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. The current act’s Minimum Essential Coverage Provision exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I, he said.
Cuccinelli filed one of the earliest lawsuits challenging the health care reform act. Earlier this month, Lynchburg U.S. District Court Judge Norman A. Moon upheld the act against a similar challenge filed by Liberty University.
By Deborah Elkins