KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Federal Judge Strikes Down Part Of Health Reform Law

The New York Times: "A federal district judge in Virginia ruled on Monday that the keystone provision in the Obama health care law is unconstitutional, becoming the first court in the country to invalidate any part of the sprawling act and insuring that appellate courts will receive contradictory opinions from below." Judge Henry Hudson declined "the plaintiff's request to freeze implementation of the law pending appeal, meaning that there should be no immediate effect on the ongoing rollout of the law" (Sack, 12/13).

The National Journal: "The decision ... found that the insurance coverage mandate in the law 'exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power,' but chose to sever the relevant sections of the law, instead of invalidating the entire statute" (McCarthy, 12/13).

The Associated Press: With this decision, Judge Hudson is "the first federal judge to strike down the law, which has been upheld by two others in Virginia and Michigan. Several other lawsuits have been dismissed and others are pending, including one filed by 20 other states in Florida. ... Administration officials told reporters last week that a negative ruling would have virtually no impact on the law's implementation, noting that its two major provisions - the coverage mandate and the creation of new insurance markets - don't take effect until 2014" (12/13).

Los Angeles Times: "The much-anticipated decision, which the Obama administration is expected to appeal, will not stop implementation of the sweeping overhaul that the president signed in March. The new mandate is not set to go into effect until 2014, when Americans will also gain guarantees that they will be able to get health benefits even if they are sick" (Levey, 12/13).

The Wall Street Journal: "The ruling by Judge Hudson is perhaps the most significant so far among a slate of state-based legal challenges to the law, which faces a broad attack by newly resurgent Republicans in Congress. ... While differing somewhat, the challenges largely rest on a core argument that Congress lacks constitutional authority to require most Americans to carry health insurance or pay a fee." But this mandate does not take effect until 2014. "Health-care consultants say employers and health-care companies are pressing ahead with their response to the law without regard for the court's decisions." In addition, states are proceeding with plans to create the law's health insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansions (Adamy, 12/13).  

Kaiser Health News also has the text of the ruling.

The Washington Post: According to the 42-page opinion: "'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,' he wrote. 'In doing so, enactment of the [individual mandate] exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I [of the Constitution]" (Helderman, 12/113).

CNN: "Virginia officials had argued that the Constitution's Commerce Clause does not give the government the authority to force Americans to purchase a commercial product -- like health insurance -- that they may not want or need. They equated such a requirement to a burdensome regulation of "inactivity" (Mears, 12/13).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia "Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's office had argued that the individual mandate provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. 'I am gratified we prevailed,' Cuccinelli said. 'This won't be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution'" (Nolan, 12/13).

The Virginian-Pilot: "Strengthening the Virginia lawsuit, Cuccinelli contends, is General Assembly approval earlier this year of a state law that exempts citizens from the mandate" (Walker, 12/13).

Politico: "Administration officials concede that the lack of a mandate would cut the number of uninsured people who would get coverage in half and threaten the ban on denying coverage people with pre-existing conditions – one of the president's signature selling points on the law. Other parts of the law, such as the insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion, could arguably move forward unaffected." In addition, "[h]ealth reform supporters were quick to stress that the vast majority of health reform cases have come out in their favor, with judges either ruling the law to be constitutional or tossing out the suits altogether (Kliff and Lee, 12/13).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.