A key part of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law has been declared unconstitutional by a Virginia federal judge. This sets the stage for a long legal struggle which will likely end up in the Supreme Court.The “individual mandate,” which requires the purchase of health insurance by all Americans, was struck down by U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in the case of Virginia v. Sebelius. Hudson wrote, “An individual’s personal decision to purchase — or decline purchase — (of) health insurance from a private provider is beyond the historical reach of the U.S. Constitution. No specifically articulated constitutional authority exists to mandate the purchase of health insurance.” This decision contradicts another court ruling that the mandate is constitutional. The ruling is expected to be challenged in a federal appeals court by the Department of Justice.The administration had previously received a favorable ruling on the mandate by a federal judge in Virginia. The favorable decision was the same as that reached by a Michigan judge in October. Officials in Virginia argued that the government does not have the authority to force Americans to buy a commercial product like health insurance. They base this belief on the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.There are a few states that have specific laws stating that residents cannot be forced to buy health insurance and Virginia is one of them. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a conservative Republican said, “I am gratified we prevailed. This won’t be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution.”President Obama and Attorney General, Eric Holder, have been urged to request an expedited appeal to the Supreme Court by incoming House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-VA). Cantor has stated, “Ultimately, we must ensure that no American will be forced by the federal government to purchase health insurance they may not need, want, or be able to afford. In this challenging environment, we must not burden our states, employers, and families with the costs and uncertainty created by this unconstitutional law, and we must take all steps to resolve this issue immediately.”The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed by President Obama in March, is considered the signature legislation of his first two years in office. For months after taking office President Obama had promoted the Democratic led reform.In 2009, there were 45 million Americans without health insurance, which is about 15 percent of the U.S. population. The health care reform was designed to help the millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans. The plan is that the government will impose health insurance mandates and subsidies to ensure that all Americans receive affordable health care.Critics of the new law have called it socialized medicine and fear that it will lead to higher taxes and substandard health care services. There have been dozens of challenges to the reform filed in federal courts all over the nation.The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the law by a California conservative group in November. The court justices will not get involved in this early stage of the legal process. Rarely does the Supreme Court accept cases that have not been thoroughly reviewed by lower courts. It is expected that the larger issues in the debate will end up before the Supreme Court but legal experts do not anticipate that to happen for at least one or two years.Health care reform has been a top priorities for the Democratic party since the Truman Administration. The reform was passed almost solely by Democrats in party-line votes and opponents of the reform call it “Obamacare.” Since the midterm elections, Republicans now hold the majority in the House and vow to overturn or severely limit the reform law.Judge Henry Hudson wrote, “While this court’s decision may set the initial judicial course of this case, it will certainly not be the final word.”
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