Virginia’s Attorney General filed a cause of action against the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to prevent enforcement of a provision in the Obama Care law. The new health care law requires Americans to “purchase health insurance for themselves and their dependents subject to a civil penalty.”
The Virginia lawsuit asserted that this provision would force healthy young adults and other rationally uninsured individuals to purchase insurance to “cross subsidize older and less healthy citizens.” Virginia Attorney General argued that the provision is constitutionally flawed since the Obama administration and Congress have no constitutional basis to compel U.S. citizens to purchase a service, in this case, health insurance, against their will.
District Court Judge Hudson agreed that the Constitution did not give Congress that power. HHS argued that Congress had the power to regulate interstate commerce and therefore, the government had the right to insist that persons purchase this kind of insurance or suffer monetary penalties. Judge Hudson rejected this argument and pointed out that the federal government was unable to cite reported decisions extending the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to encompass the regulation of a person’s decision whether to purchase or not to purchase a product. At its core this dispute was not about regulating the business of insurance or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage, it is about the individual’s right to chose to participate. Clearly this case will be appealed and eventually land on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court will have to decide whether Americans still have the right to refuse to purchase a good or service, or whether they have lost that right to federal bureaucrats whose appetite for power seems insatiable.
Washington’s Attorney General Rob McKenna has a similar lawsuit pending before the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington. Washington special interest groups have sought to pressure McKenna to drop the case. This victory should inject some iron into McKenna’s resolve to see this important question through to the Supreme Court.