KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Va. Federal Judge Rejects Liberty University’s Challenge To Health Reform Law

The Washington Post: "A federal judge in Virginia ruled Tuesday that the new health-care overhaul law is constitutional, dismissing a lawsuit filed by Liberty University in Lynchburg that had challenged the statute." The lawsuit argued that Congress does not have the authority to require employers to offer health insurance and "was also filed on behalf of two individuals who object to the law's requirements that all individuals purchase insurance by 2014 or face a fine." U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon "ruled that the law falls within Congress's constitutional ability to regulate interstate trade" (Helderman, 11/30).

The New York Times: The ruling marks the second time in two months a federal judge has upheld the constitutionality of the health care law and two others are expected to rule in the coming months. "Last month, in a separate case, Judge George C. Steeh of Federal District Court in Detroit also upheld the law. … Lawyers on both sides expect that the Supreme Court may eventually have to decide among conflicting lower-court opinions." Disagreeing with the plaintiff's argument that the law would regulate inactivity, "Judge Moon embraced arguments made by the Justice Department. 'Far from 'inactivity,' he wrote, 'by choosing to forgo insurance, plaintiffs are making an economic decision to try to pay for health care services later, out of pocket, rather than now, through the purchase of insurance'" (Sack, 11/30).

The Associated Press: "University law school dean Mathew Staver said in a telephone interview that he will promptly appeal the ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond." The White House responded in a blog post: "In the weeks ahead, there will be additional court cases. … We can't predict the outcome of each case, but we are confident that we will ultimately prevail in court and continue to deliver the benefits of reform to the American people" (O'Dell, 11/30).

Politico: Liberty University also "argued that the legislation's requirement that nearly all Americans purchase insurance coverage and its incentives for large employers to cover employees would allow the university's money to cover abortions, violating the religious values of the institution. The court flatly rejected that argument. 'The Act explicitly states that no plan is required to cover any form of abortion services,'" the judge said (Haberkorn, 11/30).

Bloomberg: "The case is one of several challenges to the health-care act, including a lawsuit filed in Florida federal court by 20 states. A separate action filed by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli is before a federal judge in Richmond." A ruling is expected in that case by the end of the year (Fisk, 12/1). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.