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Va. judge declares individual mandate unconstitutional

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | December 13, 2010
U.S. District Judge
Henry Hudson
In the first serious legal blow to the Obama administration's health reform law, a federal judge ruled Monday the law's individual mandate "exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power," Politico reports.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson, appointed by President Bush, is the first judge to rule against any part of the law. It was previously upheld by two judges, Clinton appointees, in Virginia and Michigan, the AP said.

Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli brought the lawsuit earlier this year, claiming the individual mandate, which requires everyone to buy health insurance by 2014 or face a penalty, goes beyond the powers given to Congress by the Commerce Clause.

If the individual mandate is struck down, it would be difficult to carry out parts of the health reform law, such as expanding coverage to the uninsured and preventing insurance companies from denying plans to those with pre-existing conditions, analysts said.

In his ruling, Hudson said he didn't need to block implementation of the law, and that the ultimate decision will rest with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Proponents of the bill noted that judges threw out 12 earlier federal suits, and White House officials said they expect the case to ultimately prevail. However, other cases are still pending, including a lawsuit in northern Florida brought by 20 states. Oral arguments in that case are expected to be heard Thursday.