The Health Care Reform Battle Heats Up in the Courts

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Countering decisions of two other district courts, on Monday, December 13, Judge Henry E. Hudson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that the provision requiring citizens to maintain a minimum level of health insurance coverage is unconstitutional. Judge Hudson held that Section 1501 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”), more popularly known as the “Minimum Essential Coverage Provision,” exceeds Congressional power under the Commerce Clause, and is therefore unconstitutional.

The challenge to PPACA, brought by Ken Cuccinelli, the Attorney General of Virginia, argued that the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision was unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the taxing power of the General Welfare Clause. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services countered with an “aggregation theory” that the collective effect of individual decisions on buying health care coverage has a significant impact on interstate commerce and therefore provides a basis for authority under the Commerce Clause. Hudson ultimately agreed that the Provision exceeds the historical boundaries of Commerce Clause power because it forces individuals to purchase a product from a private vendor. Hudson also held that, because the Provision exceeds the limits of the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause provides no “safe sanctuary” as the legislation was not enacted in furtherance of Congress’s constitutional powers.

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