Today, the Eastern District of Virginia issued a memorandum opinion striking down Section 1501 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Act), also referred to as the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision (Provision) or as the “individual mandate.” Commonwealth of Virginia v. Sebelius, Civil Action No. 3:10CV188-HEH (Dec. 13, 2010).

The Commonwealth of Virginia brought a lawsuit against the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services seeking to, among other things, declare the Provision—which requires that every citizen maintain a minimum level of health insurance coverage and penalizes citizens who fail to obtain such coverage—unconstitutional. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment on the issue of whether the Provision exceeded Congressional authority under the Commerce Clause and General Welfare Clause of the United States Constitution. The Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Commonwealth. The court concluded that Congress lacked authority under the Commerce Clause, and associated Necessary and Proper Clause, to compel individual citizens to purchase health insurance. Finding that the portion of the Provision penalizing citizens for failing to obtain health insurance was not intended by Congress as a bona fide revenue raising measure, the court also held that the Provision could not be construed as a tax under the General Welfare Clause. Accordingly, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the Commonwealth and declared the Provision invalid. The court, however, elected to sever the Provision from the remainder of the Act as opposed to striking the Act down in its entirety as the Commonwealth argued should be the case. It is very likely that the United States Department of Justice will appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court’s decision is available by clicking here.