Judge Rules in Favor of Pennsylvania Couple’s Challenge of Federal Health Care Reform Law

September 14, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – A Pennsylvania couple has won a suit in which they challenged the constitutionality of the requirement to maintain minimum essential health care coverage under the federal health care reform law that takes effect in 2014. 
Plaintiffs Barbara Goudy-Bachman and Gregory Bachman, a married couple with two children, reside in Etters, York County, Pennsylvania. Barbara is 48 years old, and Gregory is 56 years old. They are self-employed and do not carry health insurance. Neither currently qualifies for Medicaid and neither will qualify for Medicare before January 1, 2014, when the individual mandate takes effect.

Barbara and Gregory are also not members of any group that is exempt from the individual mandate and, hence, they will be subject to the mandate when it takes effect on January 1, 2014. The Bachmans do not dispute that there is a health care crisis that is national in scope. To the contrary, the Bachmans’ personal financial decisions exemplify the Hobson’s choice of family budgets across the country that lies at the very core of the health care crisis. They dropped all health insurance coverage in 2001 because their insurance premiums exceeded their mortgage payments. The insurance that the Bachmans had maintained was of limited use in that it covered only 80% of qualified expenses and imposed a 20% deductible per occurrence. Since terminating their health insurance coverage, the Bachmans have incurred medical expenses for various health care services, and have paid these expenses in full out of current assets.

The court rejected the government’s argument that the Bachmans are active participants in the nation’s health care market, which would entitle Congress to regulate them under the Commerce Clause. The court held “There is no factually similar precedent addressing the use of Congress’s commerce power to enact an economic mandate of this magnitude. Based upon careful review of Commerce Clause jurisprudence, the court declared the individual mandate to be an unconstitutional extension of authority granted to the federal government under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

The case is Goudy-Bachman v. HHS, M.D., Pa., No. 10-CV-763.