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Federal District Court Holds That the Individual Mandate in PPACA is Unconstitutional

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that Section 1501 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is unconstitutional.  Shortly after PPACA was passed in March 2010, Virginia passed a state statute that conflicted with the individual mandate found in Section 1501 of PPACA which requires that by 2014 every United States citizen, with a few exceptions, must maintain a minimum level of health insurance coverage subject to penalty.  Following the passage of its state law, Virginia filed its lawsuit alleging that the individual mandate of PPACA violated the Commerce, Necessary and Proper and General Welfare Clauses of the United States Constitution.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contended that the provision was Constitutional because individuals’ decisions to not purchase health care insurance combine to have a collectively serious effect on interstate commerce.  Thus, the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause support the provision. 

In his opinion, Judge Henry E. Hudson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia disagreed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ analysis.  The court held that the individual mandate in PPACA violates the Commerce Clause because the provision “compels” an individual to engage in commerce.  Further, since the provision violates the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause does not protect the provision because that clause requires that legislation be in furtherance of Congress’ constitutionally enumerated powers.  

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