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More Thoughts on Today’s Court Ruling

The mainstream media, health blogs, and coffee shops (well, those frequented by health care policy wonks) are all abuzz today with talk of today’s ruling in a Virginia federal district court in which the judge found that the individual responsibility provision in the ACA is unconstitutional.

In particular, Judge Hudson declared that in passing the ACA, Congress exceeded its authority under the Commerce Clause.  He accepted the Virginia Attorney General’s argument that the individual mandate constitutes governing inactivity, and that no court has extended Congress’s Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market.  Judge Hudson also rejected the Secretary of HHS’s argument that the individual mandate also comes within Congress’s authority under the General Taxing and Spend Clause.

You can read today’s opinion here.

For the more on the legal issues at play here, take a look at this issue brief on the individual mandate by the American Constitution Society.

Additional Thoughts…

  • This ruling does not change anything right now. Implementation will continue to move full speed ahead at both the state and national levels. This opinion and others will be appealed, and the issue will ultimately be settled by higher courts, most likely the Supreme Court.
  • There have been at least 12 procedural victories for the ACA in courts across the country.
  • Today’s ruling was the first in the country to invalidate any part of the ACA. This is likely one of the reasons it’s causing such a stir.
  • On the issue of the Individual Mandate, a federal judge in Michigan upheld the provision in October, and a federal judge in the Western District of Virginia dismissed Liberty University’s challenge to the law on November 30.
  • The President responded quickly. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, “Our belief is that when all the legal wrangling is done, this is something that will be upheld.”