A federal district judge in Virginia ruled today that the new health care law’s mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional, becoming the first court in the country to invalidate any part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law 111-148, signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. See Virginia v. Sebelius (E.D Va., Case No. 3:10CV188-HEH) (PDF).
Judge Henry E. Hudson wrote that the law’s requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance exceeds the regulatory authority granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Judge Hudson wrote that his survey of case law “yielded no reported decisions from any federal appellate courts extending the Commerce Clause or General Welfare Clause to encompass regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, not withstanding its effect on interstate commerce or role in a global regulatory scheme.”
This decision is in contrast to decisions from the District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and from the Western District of Virginia, in which both courts upheld the constitutionality of the mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance. See Thomas More Law Center, et al. v. Obama (E.D. Mich., Case No. 10-CV-11156) (PDF) and Liberty University v. Geithner (W.D. Va., Case No. 6:10-CV-00015) (PDF). These decisions are currently on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the Fourth Circuit respectively. This Virginia case may leapfrog those appeals, however, if the Justice Department agrees to the Virginia attorney general’s request to bypass the Court of Appeals and file for expedited review by the Supreme Court.