Judge: Purchase mandate in health-care reform is unconstitutional

The mandate to taxpayers to purchase health insurance that is a key provision in the health-care reform signed into law in March is unconstitutional, a federal judge in Virginia ruled Monday.

“On careful review, this Court must conclude that Section 1501 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – specifically the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision – exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power,” District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson wrote in an opinion on the suit filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli challenging the health-care reform.

The ruling was a victory in part for Cuccinelli and a victory in part for the Obama administration. Hudson in his ruling declined to invalidate the reform law in its entirety.

Hudson, appointed to the federal bench in 2002 by Republican George W. Bush, conceded that “the final word” on the constitutionality of the reform “will undoubtedly reside with a higher court.”

Link to Henry Hudson’s ruling.

Cuccinelli, in a statement on the ruling claiming victory, also recognized that the legal wrangling is far from over.

“I am gratified we prevailed,” Cuccinelli said. “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.”

Hudson, in his reasoning, dismissed arguments made by the Obama administration that the penalty for failing to purchase health insurance is actually a form of taxation, citing public-policy proclamations by administration officials and congressional leaders in the runup to the passage of the legislation. The judge also dismissed arguments made by the administration that the insurance mandate was a proper exercise of interstate commerce.

The ruling from Hudson contradicts recent rulings from other federal judges who have found the purchase requirement to be within congressional authority.

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.

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