US judge rejects key part of Obama healthcare law
US: A US judge in Virginia Monday declared a key part of President
Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare law unconstitutional in the first
major setback on an issue that will likely end up at the Supreme Court.
US District Judge Henry Hudson, appointed to the bench by President
George W. Bush in 2002, backed the state of Virginia’s argument that
Congress exceeded its authority by requiring Americans to start buying
health insurance in 2014 or face a fine.
“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,” Hudson
wrote, adding the provision invites an “unbridled exercise of federal
But he declined to invalidate the entire healthcare law, a small
victory for Obama, whose administration will appeal the decision.
The law is a cornerstone of Obama’s presidency, aiming to expand
health insurance to cover millions of uninsured Americans while trying
to curb costs.
Obama told the Tampa television station WFLA he was confident the
courts would uphold the healthcare act.
“The majority of courts that have looked at this issue so far are
absolutely convinced that the healthcare (act) is constitutional,” he
Healthcare insurers, which include companies such as Aetna Inc and
WellPoint Inc, largely opposed Obama’s reforms but say the individual
mandate is critical so additional customers can offset greater industry
Health insurers’ stock prices initially rose on the ruling before
later tapering off as investors saw more uncertainty as the case
proceeds. The ruling signaled that changes to the bill rather than a
full overhaul are more realistic.
“Investors are taking this in stride knowing this is probably going
to come down to the Supreme Court sooner or later,” said Morningstar
analyst Matthew Coffina.
“This really only adds to that uncertainty in terms of not really
being sure if and when and how the legislation can be implemented.”
Virginia’s lawyers argued that the federal government could not
regulate someone for not buying a good or service under the U.S.
Constitution’s Commerce Clause and could not penalize them for failing
to buy health insurance.
“This lawsuit is not about healthcare. It’s about liberty,” said
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. He said he had discussed with
the Justice Department ways to accelerate the appeals process to try to
minimize uncertainty in the states and in the industry.
Representative Eric Cantor, set to become majority leader in the
House of Representatives, called for sending the case immediately to the
Supreme Court. He said he would push the House to pass a repeal of the
law next year.
However, chances of a repeal are slim because Democrats will still
control the Senate. It could take more than a year for the case to get
to the Supreme Court.
Officials said the administration will keep implementing the rest of
the law while it works through the legal questions of the individual
mandate. Virginia had requested an injunction to block implementation of
the entire law, but the judge did not grant it.
Washington, Tuesday, Reuters