On December 13, 2010, Virginia took center stage in the ongoing national debate over the national health care law enacted earlier this year. Judge Henry E. Hudson of the Richmond Federal District Court accepted arguments advanced by Virginia Attorney General, Kenneth Cuccinelli II, and struck down the individual mandate portion of the health care reform bill, finding it to be in violation of the United States Constitution. Judge Hudson specifically held that “an individual’s personal decision to purchase — or decline to purchase — health insurance from a private provider is beyond the historical reach of the Commerce Clause…” Judge Hudson further elaborates that the “[t]he Minimum Essential Coverage Provision is neither within the letter nor the spirit of the Constitution,” specifically rejecting the federal government’s contention that the individual mandate should be upheld pursuant to the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause of the United States Constitution.
Judge Hudson’s decision is neither the first nor last word regarding the constitutionality of recent Health Care Reform. This decision is in direct conflict with decisions from several other courts, including a decision from the Western District of Virginia, which upheld the individual mandate as constitutional. In many ways, the state of Virginia perfectly demonstrates how this issue is ripe for consideration by the United States Supreme Court. In a legal battle that is likely to be resolved in the United States Supreme Court, Judge Hudson’s Memorandum Opinion has garnered the attention of the nation. Moving forward, this opinion will certainly play a role in Health Care Reform’s journey to the US Supreme Court, where the eventual decision may have a profound impact on individuals and businesses alike.
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