A federal district judge in Virginia ruled Monday that a key provision within President Barack Obama’s federal health care reforms that requires citizens to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. According to one official in the Idaho attorney general’s office, the ruling helps Idaho’s own case against federal health reforms, though it doesn’t necessarily set a precedent.
Virginia filed suit earlier this year against the federal government, contending that the individual mandate to purchase insurance overstepped authority granted to Congress in the U.S. Constitution. Monday, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson agreed and wrote that the requirement that citizens purchase health coverage of pay a hefty fine “exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power.”
Bob Cooper, spokesman for Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office, told IdahoReporter.com Monday that Hudson’s ruling aids Idaho’s case against the same health reforms. ”It is helpful and encouraging,” said Cooper, though he pointed out that the Gem State’s case against reforms could still end differently than did Virginia’s. ”It [Hudson's ruling] is persuasive, but not precedent. It does not require Judge [Roger] Vinson to make the same decision in our case.”
The Idaho Legislature passed the Idaho Health Freedom Act during the 2010 legislative session, a bill requiring the state attorney general to sue the federal government over health care reforms passed in March. Targeted by the state legislation was the mandate that private citizens purchase health insurance, which the health freedom act argues is unconstitutional. Following passage of the act, Wasden joined with 19 other states to file a lawsuit against the mandate in U.S. District Court in Florida. Attorneys for the Obama administration petitioned the court for dismissal of the class-action lawsuit, but the judge in the case threw out the request.
Hudson’s ruling Monday in Virginia does not mean that states can halt implementation of the health system overhaul. According to the Wall Street Journal, Hudson’s action only strikes down the mandate to purchase health coverage, but leaves the rest of the law intact. States must continue working to create health insurance exchanges and various other aspects of reforms.
It is almost assured that lawyers for the Obama administration will appeal Hudson’s rulings. The Virginia case, like the 20-state suit in which Idaho is participating, is expected to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.