Federal Judge Strikes Down Major Provisions of Health Reform Law
On Tuesday, a federal district court judge in Harrisburg, Pa., ruled in an independent lawsuit that the individual mandate in the federal health reform law is unconstitutional, Reuters reports (Stempel, Reuters, 9/13).
The lawsuit's plaintiffs -- a married Pennsylvania couple -- sought to overturn the reform law, arguing that they dropped their health insurance coverage because of the high costs and that they would be forced by the mandate to repurchase the insurance (Levy, AP/Miami Herald, 9/13).
In a 53-page ruling, Judge Christopher Conner wrote that the federal government's power to regulate interstate commerce does not include the authority to force U.S. residents to buy health insurance if they do not wish to do so (Mondics, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/14).
Conner noted, "Scores of individuals are uninsured and the costs to all citizens are measurable and significant," adding, "The federal government, however, is one of limited enumerated powers, and Congress' efforts to remedy the ailing health care and health insurance markets must fit squarely within the boundaries of those powers" (Reuters, 9/13).
Conner also struck down other provisions in the health reform law that are linked to the mandate -- such as the requirement for insurers to cover everyone who seeks to purchase a health plan and the ban on denying coverage to a potential customer with pre-existing conditions -- because they are inseparable from the mandate.
He rejected the plaintiffs' claims that the mandate is "disastrous to this nation's future" and that it would push the U.S. toward becoming "a socialist state," adding that their "suggestions of cataclysmic results ... are both unproductive and unpersuasive" (AP/Miami Herald, 9/13).
Only Judge To Strike Down Major Provisions While Upholding Law
According to The Hill's "Healthwatch," Conner is the only judge -- across multiple lawsuits that have been reviewed in federal district and appellate courts -- to strike down the health reform law's individual mandate and several other provisions while still upholding the majority of the law.
Although other judges have declared the mandate unconstitutional, they have struck it down on its own or invalidated the entire law (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/13).
Conner was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2002 (Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.