MONDAY, Dec. 13 (HealthDay News) -- A federal judge ruled Monday
that the new U.S. health-care reform law is unconstitutional,
saying the federal government has no authority to require citizens
to buy health insurance.
That provision is a cornerstone of the new legislation, signed
into law in March by President Barack Obama.
The judge's decision was not unexpected, and both supporters and
opponents of the legislation anticipate the validity of the new
health law ultimately will be decided by the U.S. Supreme
The ruling was handed down by U.S. District Judge Henry E.
Hudson, a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush who had
seemed sympathetic to the state of Virginia's case when oral
arguments were heard in October, the
Associated Press reported.
Last week, White House officials said a negative ruling would
not affect the implementation of the law because its major
provisions don't take effect until 2014, the
AP reported. The legislation was a Democratic initiative
championed by Obama, and remains unpopular with Republicans.
Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, a Republican, had
filed a lawsuit in defense of a new Virginia law barring the
federal government from requiring state residents to buy health
insurance. He argued that it is unconstitutional for the federal
law to force citizens to buy health insurance and to assess a
penalty if they don't.
The U.S. Justice Department said the insurance mandate falls
within the scope of the federal government's authority under the
Commerce Clause. But Cuccinelli said deciding not to buy insurance
is an economic matter outside the government's domain.
Hudson became the first federal judge to strike down a key part
of the health law, which had been upheld by federal judges in
Virginia and Michigan. Several other lawsuits have been dismissed
and others are pending, including one filed in Florida by 20
states, according to the
By 2019, the law, unless changed, will expand health insurance
access to 94 percent of non-elderly Americans. Advocates say that
between now and then, it will also provide consumers with many new
rights and protections.
Key provisions include:
Reaction to the judge's ruling was divided, with opponents of
the law pleased while backers were dismayed.
The mandate that consumers buy insurance or pay a penalty marked
the first time Americans have been required by the federal
government to purchase a commercial product, said Devon Herrick, a
senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis in
Requiring people to carry insurance takes away an individual's
freedom of choice, he said, agreeing with the judge's decision to
strike down that provision of the law.
"According to the judge, this dispute is about an individual's right to choose to participate," Herrick said. "One reason why individual choice is important is that the health insurance policies individuals will be required to purchase are saddled with mandated benefits and mandated providers that drive up the cost of coverage."
"Moreover, the cost of this mandated health coverage will grow at twice rate of the nation's income. It doesn't make sense to require individuals to purchase a product they cannot afford and fine them when they fail to purchase it," he said.
DeAnn Friedholm, director of Consumers Union's health reform
campaign, said: "This is a case that will likely wind up in the
Supreme Court, since other courts have ruled in favor of the new
health law. This law, while not perfect, finally protects American
consumers against the worst practices of the health insurance
industry. Until there is a final decision, we will continue to work
hard to educate consumers about what is really in the health law
and how they can get the best benefits from the system for their
family's health and pocketbook."
To learn more about the impact of the Affordable Care Act, visit
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Web
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.