A Federal Court in Virginia ruled on December 13 that the provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requiring most Americans to carry insurance or pay a fine is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, a George W. Bush appointee, opined that PPACA's requirement "exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power" and "would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers." Two other federal judges had previously upheld the so-called individual mandate, scheduled to go into effect in 2014. More than 20 federal lawsuits have been filed against the law.
The lawsuit was brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, who argued that the mandate exceeds the federal government's constitutional right to regulate interstate commerce. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that the government would appeal the ruling. An eventual Supreme Court case is considered likely, but not before the 2011-12 term.
The federal government has argued that without the individual mandate, most people will not pay for insurance until immediately before they expect to incur a healthcare cost. PPACA's ban on insurers denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, therefore, would not be feasible because there would be few healthy premium-paying insureds to offset the costs for those who require care.