Judge Strikes Down HCR Coverage Mandate

December 13, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that the mandate in the health care reform law requiring most Americans to get health coverage or pay a penalty is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia agreed with the Commonwealth of Virginia, which filed the legal challenge, that federal lawmakers overstepped their constitutional powers under the Commerce Clause to include the coverage mandate in the new law. The mandate is not scheduled to kick in until 2014.

Hudson denied a request from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to block implementation of the law while the array of legal challenges to it wend their way through the court system.

While federal government lawyers had argued before Hudson that the mandate is necessary for the bill’s other provisions to work, the Commonwealth insisted requiring Americans to buy a product – in this case insurance coverage – had no basis in the Constitution. Hudson agreed.

“Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause power to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market,” Hudson wrote in a 42-page decision. “”Despite the laudable intentions of Congress in enacting a comprehensive and transformative healthcare regime, the legislative process must still operate within constitutional bounds.”

Other federal judges in Virginia (see Liberty College HCR Challenge Dismissed) and Michigan (see Judge Declares HCR Law Constitutional) have offered different interpretations, dismissing constitutional challenges to the new mandate. 

Hudson’s latesst ruling is here.