Judge Rules in Favor of Individual Mandate in Health Reform Law
On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington, D.C., granted the federal government's motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal health reform law and the individual mandate, the Wall Street Journal reports (Kendall, Wall Street Journal, 2/22).
The lawsuit was filed by the American Center for Law and Justice, a D.C.-based conservative Christian legal group, on behalf of five private individuals in New York, North Carolina and Texas. The suit stated that Congress exceeded its constitutional boundaries by passing legislation requiring most U.S. residents to purchase health coverage in 2014 or pay a penalty (Pickler, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/22).
The plaintiffs also argued that the mandate violates their right to religious freedom because it conflicts with their belief that God provides for their well-being, according to the New York Times.
In her opinion, Kessler rejected the plaintiffs' two complaints, suggesting that an individual's failure to purchase health insurance would have substantial effects on the marketplace because other consumers would be forced to cover the cost of uncompensated care.
She wrote, "Because of this cost-shifting effect, the individual decision to forgo health insurance, when considered in the aggregate, leads to substantially higher insurance premiums for those other individuals who do obtain coverage" (Sack, New York Times, 2/22).
Kessler continued, "Congress had a rational basis for its conclusion that the aggregate of individual decisions not to purchase health insurance substantially affects the national health insurance market," noting, "Consequently, Congress was acting within the bounds of its commerce clause power" (Wall Street Journal, 2/22).
She added that if any individual opposed to the mandate for religious reasons can opt to pay the penalty, which the five plaintiffs say they plan to do, according to the AP/San Francisco Chronicle (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/22).
The Obama administration welcomed Kessler's ruling, while a lawyer for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the ruling, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 2/22).
Kessler Third Federal Judge To Rule in Favor of Reform
Kessler became the third federal judge appointed by President Clinton to uphold the constitutionality of the health reform law and the individual mandate, the AP/Chronicle reports. Last year, two judges in Michigan and Lynchburg, Va., also ruled in favor of the overhaul.
Meanwhile, two Republican-appointed federal judges in Richmond, Va., and Florida struck down the individual mandate. The judge in Florida -- Roger Vinson -- also invalidated the entire law because he concluded that the individual mandate is inseparable from the law (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/22).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.