Virginia Judge Calls Health Insurance Mandate Unconstitutional

December 13, 2010

A federal judge has rejected a key provision of the Obama administration's healthcare law as unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled on Monday that the government cannot require individuals to buy health insurance.

This article originally appeared on HCPLive.com.

A federal judge has rejected a key provision of the Obama administration's healthcare law as unconstitutional, the Associated Press is reporting. U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled on Monday that the government cannot require individuals to buy health insurance.

Hudson is the first federal judge to strike down the law, which has been upheld by two other federal judges in Michigan and in Lynchburg, Va. Several other lawsuits have been dismissed and others are pending, including one filed by 20 other states in Florida.

The government had argued the Commerce Clause of the Constitution grants the government the power to require individuals to buy health insurance or face a penalty, a provision due to take effect in 2014.

However, Hudson sided with Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli in saying that the mandate overstepped the U.S. Constitution. The case “turns on atypical and uncharted applications of constitutional law interwoven with subtle political undercurrents," Hudson wrote in a 42-page opinion. “The outcome of this case has significant public policy implications. And the final word will undoubtedly reside with a higher court."

The statute's constitutionality will ultimately be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling by Hudson, a George W. Bush appointee, was widely anticipated based on questions he posed to Obama administration lawyers in oral arguments in his Richmond courtroom.

But the legal defeat will deal a significant political blow to the law, cheering those who have predicted its demise will come from adverse legal rulings rather than congressional repeal, according to a Washington Post article.

The Virginia suit would ordinarily next be heard by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, Cuccinelli has indicated that he wants to bypass the appeals court and move directly to the Supreme Court, an extraordinary legal maneuver that would require the high court to decide that the case held extreme public importance and intervene immediately.

“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 White House responded to the ruling by saying the judge’s ruling does not create uncertainty about the implementation of the law's provisions. White House health reform director Nancy-Ann DeParle told the Associated Press that while one provision of the legislation was struck down by the Virginia judge, the Obama administration was encouraged that two other federal judges have upheld the law. DeParle told the Associated Press that the Justice Department is reviewing Hudson's ruling.