In a ruling released today in Virginia, US Federal District Court Judge Henry Hudson has ruled that the individual mandate requiring the purchase of health insurance which is the cornerstone of President Obama's recent health care reform bill, is unconstitutional.
Because the bill was written without a severability clause, the elimination of that central provision of the legislation could result in the failure of the entire bill, which would collapse like a house of cards, although this ruling specifically chose not to address the full implications of the removal of this key provision from the bill.
The ruling came as the result of a suit brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinnelli, who is one of more than 20 state attorney generals filing suits disputing the constitutional legitimacy of the new health care law.
In his ruling, Judge Hudson said that:
"Congress lacked power under the Commerce Clause, or associated Necessary and Proper Clause, to compel an individual to involuntarily engage in a private commercial transaction...A thorough survey of pertinent constitutional case law has 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...The unchecked expansion of congressional power to the limits suggested by the Minimal Essential Coverage Provision would invite unchecked exercise of federal policy powers. At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance — or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage — it's about an individual's right to choose to participate."
Another similar suit is currently pending in the 4th US District Court and more fill follow. Civil libertarians are hailing this decision as an important landmark in the defense of individual rights and in the effort to reign in the expansion of government power which has taken place under the current and prior presidential administrations. Not surprisingly, the administration, which has staked so much of its future on this legislation, plans to appeal this decision.