On Monday, a federal judge ruled that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision compelling most Americans to buy insurance is unconstitutional. However, the judge denied Virginia’s request to halt the ACA from being implemented while the ruling is appealed by the administration.
Judge Henry E. Hudson of Federal District Court in Richmond, Virginia, found that the law’s requirement that most Americans buy insurance surpasses the regulatory authority of Congress under the Commerce Clause. Hudson is the first federal judge to rule against the ACA.
“Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market,” says Hudson.
Insurers argue that the requirement for Americans, especially healthy Americans, to purchase insurance is necessary for them to be able to afford to pay for those with expensive conditions.
In a public statement, the White House argues:
This concept is clearly seen in other areas of commerce. For example, in most states, drivers are required to carry a minimum level of auto insurance. Accidents happen and when they do, they need to be paid for quickly and responsibly. Requiring drivers to carry auto insurance accomplishes this goal. Similarly, the Affordable Care Act, through the individual responsibility requirement, will require everyone to carry some form of health insurance since everyone at some point in time participates in the health care system, and incur costs that must be paid for.
The counter argument is that there is no statutory requirement that people own cars. There is only a requirement (in some states) that if people choose to own a vehicle, they also purchase an insurance policy. In addition, the Constitution gives the states broader police powers.
The Justice Department (DOJ) is defending the statute and is considering how they will appeal the ruling.
Two other district court judges have ruled on cases challenging whether provisions of the ACA are constitutional. In those cases, the judges upheld the law. Another lawsuit involving 20 states is scheduled to start Thursday in Florida.