RICHMOND – A federal judge in Virginia ruled Monday that a key provision of the nation’s sweeping health-care overhaul is unconstitutional, the most significant legal setback so far for President Obama’s signature domestic initiative.
U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson found that Congress could not order individuals to buy health insurance.
In a 42-page opinion, Hudson said the provision of the law that requires most individuals to get insurance or pay a fine by 2014 is an unprecedented expansion of federal power that cannot be supported by Congress’s power to regulate interstate trade.
“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.]
Hudson is the first judge to rule that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. He said, however, that portions of the law that do not rest on the requirement that individuals obtain insurance are legal and can proceed. Hudson indicated there was no need for him to enjoin the law and halt its implementation, since the mandate does not go into effect until 2014.