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Part of Health Care Law Struck Down by Federal Judge

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U.S. District Courthouse for Eastern District of Virginia by Taber Andrew Bain on Flickr

U.S. District Courthouse for Eastern District of Virginia by Taber Andrew Bain on Flickr

Two weeks ago, we talked about health care reform’s survival of a federal challenge in Lynchburg, Virginia; now we have a decision that has reached the opposite conclusion just across the state in Richmond, Virginia.

In both cases, the health care law’s “individual mandate,” or the section of the law requiring most Americans to buy health insurance, was in dispute. U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond has ruled that it is unconstitutional, in direct opposition to what U.S. District Court Judge Norman Moon ruled previously.

The judges’ main disagreement is over the breadth of Congress’s powers under the Commerce Clause, which gives the federal government the power to regulate interstate commerce.

While Moon ruled that the provisions of the health care law, including the individual mandate, “are well within Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause,” Hudson wrote: “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.”

Proponents of the insurance mandate contend that it is a necessary cost control measure; without requiring most Americans to buy health insurance, the argument goes, insurance companies would be free to raise premiums at their will.

If you get the feeling the constitutionality of this law will eventually be presented to the U.S. Supreme Court, you’re probably on to something. An October decision by a federal judge in Detroit, Michigan found the law constitutional while a Florida district court judge has allowed a challenge filed by 20 state Attorneys General to move forward with arguments scheduled to begin tomorrow. Both the Lynchburg and Detroit decisions have already been appealed to the 4th and 6th Circuits, respectively.

What do you think about the mandate that individuals purchase health care insurance? Is it necessary to achieve true health care reform or is it unconstitutional?

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December 15th, 2010 at 11:10 am