Open Thread: Virginia Judge Strikes Down Health Care Law

Monday, December 13, 2010

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) is applauded after signing the Affordable Health Care for America Act during a ceremony with fellow Democrats in the East Room of the White House (Getty Images)

By LARRY O'DELL, Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A federal judge rejected a key provision of the Obama administration's health care law as unconstitutional Monday, ruling the government cannot require people to buy insurance, in a dispute that both sides agree will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson is the first federal judge to strike down the law, which has been upheld by two other federal judges in Virginia and Michigan. Several other lawsuits have been dismissed and others are pending, including one filed by 20 other states in Florida.

The government had argued the Commerce Clause of the Constitution gives the government the power to require individuals to buy health insurance or face a penalty, a provision due to take effect in 2014.

But Hudson sided with Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli in saying the mandate overstepped the Constitution. "This case, however, turns on atypical and uncharted applications of constitutional law interwoven with subtle political undercurrents," Hudson wrote. "The outcome of this case has significant public policy implications. And the final word will undoubtedly reside with a higher court."

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

The Department of Justice, which defended the law in court, stood by its argument that Congress was within its rights to enact the law.

"We are disappointed in today's ruling but continue to believe - as other federal courts in Virginia and Michigan have found - that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional," said Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler.

The lawsuit was filed by Cuccinelli, a Republican, in defense of a new state law that prohibits the government from forcing state residents to buy health insurance.

Cuccinelli argued that while the government can regulate economic activity that substantially affects interstate commerce, the decision not to buy insurance amounts to economic inactivity that is beyond the government's reach.

"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," Cuccinelli said in a statement after the ruling.

Hudson, a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush, sounded sympathetic to the state's case when he heard oral arguments in October, and the White House expected to lose this round.

Administration officials told reporters last week that a negative ruling would have virtually no impact on the law's implementation, noting that its two major provisions - the coverage mandate and the creation of new insurance markets - don't take effect until 2014.

What do you think of the ruling? What does it mean for the prospects of the health care law in the United States? Let us know!




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Comments [75]


I respectfully disagree with the editor's position that being against the mandate requiring Americans to purchase policies from the private sector is considered a "crackpot" idea. On the contrary, many of us who unequivocally supported healthcare reform and were extremely disappointed that the end result did not include a public option (in fact, virtually no cost control measures -- and, yes, that is a big problem with the Massachusetts plan), many of us were adamantly opposed to the requirement that citizens purchase plans from teh private sector. It's a terrible idea, especially when you look at the healthcare "products" being pushed (insufficient coverage that will only result in someone who actually needs to use the insurance he has paid monthly premiums for to go bankrupt). We should be very concerned that the federal government, or state governments for that matter, require people to buy anything. And NO! It is not related to purchasing car insurance at all! People make a choice to buy a car. Brian, how utterly disingenuous of you as a New Yorker to question whether owning a car in America is actually a choice. Of course it is. Ask the millions of people who rely on public transportation every day! I am not at all surprised that this was the first aspect of the healthcare plan to be struck down by a federal court. In trying to please all stakeholders, especially the highly profitable health insurance industry, the Obama administration produced a healthcare plan that is a disappointment to his biggest supporters and makes the administration vulnerable to attacks from the right. As with so much this administration has done (or failed to do), the timidity with which it has approached this issue will make it more vulnerable to the opposition in the end.

Dec. 19 2010 02:38 PM
joyce Stickney

If you don't sign-up for Medicare part A when you reach medicare-age, your premium will go up every year that goes by without signing up. If you wait to sign up, your Medicare premium will be higher than the person who signed-up when they were first eligible. It is the Federal goverment imposing that "penalty".

Dec. 16 2010 05:03 PM
Mark R. from The Bronx

The new health care plan is unnecessary, overly complex and it intrudes needlessly into people's private lives. It is basically a product of big egos who continue to push the endless, phony 'civil rights' movement in America. It is filled with rules that will lead to loss of coverage, inequities across the country and continual strife.

This mess can be avoided by doing the following:

1 - Have Congress declare a patient Bill of Rights and a Caregiver Bill of Rights.

2 - Allow private insurance companies to do business across state lines, thereby giving Congress jurisdiction to regulate them according to the Commerce Clause with a clear set of patient rights. This will strengthen the position of private citizens who can and want to continue to buy private insurance. As we know, even countries with public health care have private insurance companies to fill in where government health care fails. This will reduce private insurance company profits but not destabilize them.

3 - Reform both Medicare and Medicaid by improving their practices, upgrading their information technology, replacing ineffective workers and routing out corrupt practices. This will save taxpayers billions of dollars each year and strengthen the credibility of these agencies which already provide government health insurance.

4 - Medicaid can then be extended to the uninsured to fill in the gap without the need for any more government programs.

5 - This will free up our time to concentrate where we really need to expend our 'energy' - to develop a national policy leading to energy independence.

Dec. 15 2010 10:08 AM
Laurie Spiegel from Ground Zero

The gov't forces me to buy a catalytic convertor, seatbelts, etc. if I buy a car. They have the right to force people to buy stuff that enhances "the general health and welfare" of the citizenry.

But with the current level of partisanship in this country there is just about no point in arguing such cases on their merits. It's a very sad time, and pretty scary.

Dec. 15 2010 03:14 AM
Laurie Spiegel from Ground Zero

The gov't forces me to buy a catalytic convertor, seatbelts, etc. if I buy a car. They have the right to force people to buy stuff that enhances "the general health and welfare" of the citizenry.

But with the current level of partisanship in this country there is just about no point in arguing such cases on their merits. It's a very sad time, and pretty scary.

Dec. 15 2010 03:13 AM
geTaylor from Bklyn., NY

Does anyone know how the this law intends to use the monies it will collect by way of the "penalty-tax" from persons who do not want to do their duty to their fellow citizens?

Specifically, will such "penalry-tax" monies be segregated to pay medical costs and expenses?
Or will such monies be available to the general fund for the financing military equipment and highways?

Dec. 14 2010 11:24 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn

Hi, Brian, I love Virginia, having lived there for a while, but I think that being able to see a doctor when you are sick is a basic human right. in the U.S. it seems to be a business and there is very little thought given to the patient. It is about how much money you have to go to the doctor, not about taking care of your health. How about something where nobody talks endlessly about taxes? Instead, concentrate on the people and their well being. Eugenia Renskoff

Dec. 14 2010 05:34 PM

Here is the solution to the judge's ruling that mandating participation in (i.e., paying on a sliding scale) is unconstitutional:

Every adult who does not want to participate has to have a non-removable tattoo or implanted RF device signaling the following pledge:

“As an adult of sound mind, and under the protections afforded me by the US Constitution, I irrevocably pledge that I will never seek, nor will I accept, health care benefits of any kind, including emergency care, that I cannot pay for in full.”

Adults who champion individual liberty and personal responsibility are free to make this choice. Personally, I’d rather be mandated to pay my fair share! Under this pledge, adult citizens will not be allowed to leech off premium paying citizens. Federal and state laws requiting hospitals to treat all comers, regardless of ability to pay, would have to be changed accordingly so that adult pledgers could be turned away..

How we would deal with the ethics of leaving sick and injured adults on the side of the road to suffer, I know not.

Dec. 14 2010 12:52 PM

A tax penalty does seem unconstitutional to me. I believe there should be a national health insurance. It should be a minimal insurance policy and everyone should be covered by it. Therefore it is paid for out of everyone's general tax money like the defense budget If you want to have more comprehensive insurance you buy that in the marketplace or through your employer.
I think ironing out what the national policy will cover is a much more interesting topic--hope we will one day get to this point.

Dec. 14 2010 12:34 PM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

@ rlewis from the bowery - Fair enough on the composition of the Supremes, although they seem more "activist" than "constitutionalist."

It's still possible that they could be swayed by a strong argument if Kennedy goes to one side or the other. To some extent, the DOJ argument and the decisions leading up to the top court will have some bearing on the ultimate decision.

Dec. 14 2010 11:32 AM
Andrew from Alpahbet City

rlewis, re-read what I said. Where do you find any criticism of allowing the uninsured access to health care? I simply stated a reason why insurance is so expensive - commerce is already being forced as hospitals have to take in the uninsured. This is one of the many reasons why health care is not and (as we are seeing) cannot be treated as a 'market' - a unit of health care anyone?
Given this law (I forget its name), in ten years time, instead of there being 30/40 million people without insurance, the figure would be closer to 100 million. And of course the more uninsured, the higher the cost for the insured, adding to more people having no choice but to go without insurance - and on it goes!
So yes, of course there has to be a mandate forcing everyone to purchase insurance - just because someone doesn't have health insurance, it doesn't mean they won't get sick. Unfortunately, as with many issues, right wing ideology trumpets 'reality on the ground', and so if millions and millions of Americans have to suffer with a sub-standard health care system (the only care they can get is when they are critically ill), then so be it - The Government Can't Force Commerce (even when it already does)! - The Market is always right (even when its not)!

Dec. 14 2010 11:30 AM
Sib from New Jersey

Judge Hudson and other opponents to the Health Care Law site federal governmental imposition and constitutional overreach in support of their position. I would like to ask these persons a few questions:
1. If a communicable disease is spreading in society, is it the fereral or state government's responsibility to take measures to contain it?
2. Where does the funding for containment come from?
3. Are infected persons free to refuse treatment and interact with the wider community? Does not the government have the right to quarantine infected persons for the welfare of the broader community?
4. Communicable diseases aside, is there any person alive today who has never had need for medical attention? Doesn't every new born baby get medical attention? Who pays for that?
5. For persons claiming that they are being "forced" to purchase a "product", are you willing to sign a weaver of non-accountability to the government if (God forbid) you become stricken with a health situation that you are not able to financially cope with? Or are you expecting to conveniently "opt in"?

Dec. 14 2010 11:14 AM
rlewis from bowery

Andrew, at least you're honest enough to admit that you're fine with uninsured people dieing in our streets, but the christian wing of the republican party will never allow that. And I believe most secularist wouldn't go for it either. I wouldn't, just cuz it's sooooo wrong.

Dec. 14 2010 11:01 AM
Andrew from Alpahbet City

This all boils down to the law forcing hospitals (ER rooms) to take in patients with no insurance - which the Republicans are too scared to touch. This law is one of the major reasons health care is so expensive as everyone who does have insurance pays that much more to cover these people. And it's also the reason why the Republican argument that commerce can't be forced in this instance doesn't stand.

Dec. 14 2010 11:01 AM
Andrew from Alpahbet City

This all boils down to the law forcing hospitals (ER rooms) to take in patients with no insurance - which the Republicans are too scared to touch. This law is one of the major reasons health care is so expensive as everyone who does have insurance pays that much more to cover these people. And it's also the reason why the Republican argument that commerce can't be forced in this instance doesn't stand.

Dec. 14 2010 10:56 AM
rlewis from bowery

"Even if you are a strict constitutionalist, which I'm not..."

You may not be, and neither am I, but right now, a majority of the supreme court is, and Scalia will rule. So, no matter what we like "de facto" it will not win the day unless you can change one more supreme court member.

Dec. 14 2010 10:54 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

@ rlewis from the bowery - What are you talking about "plain facts" in the Constitution? There would be no debates in the U.S. if things were as "plain fact" as you say. The whole point of this and every other argument over Constitutionality is one of interpretation where what is de facto must be considered next to what is law.

Even if you are a strict constitutionalist, which I'm not, you are in a country where people argue over the long history of decisions and jurisprudence and many who don't believe that what's written in the Constitution is all there is, so what's in dispute is the very concept of "plain facts."

Dec. 14 2010 10:50 AM
Eleanore from New Jersey

If it is unconstitutional for the government to require people to buy health insurance or face fines, how can it be consitutional for that same govt to require Medicare recipients to purchase PartD (drug coverage) insurance or pay a penalty when they decide to do so in the future? Both requirements seem grounded on the same premise, to me anyway.

Dec. 14 2010 10:49 AM
rlewis from bowery

Jill, while I agree with you, "should" doesn't make a Law, and that's what we go by here irregardless of how it works in Austrailia.

NYCarl is right, it should have been a tax, but our congress folks are wimps. They went with the commerce clause, and Glen is right - it's just too broad.

Dec. 14 2010 10:48 AM

The easy solution is Medicare/Medicaid for All Single Payer. Since this is already funded by payroll taxes, it removes the possible problems of the 10th Amendment & the Commerce Clause.

It meets the need to promote the General Welfare in 2 ways. We cannot field a fit army without starting with the fittest possible pool of draftee/recruits. The fittest pool would be healthfully maintained by wellness management from pre-natal on. They would be more attentive in school, etc.

Furthermore, the same needs would help fulfill business' needs of a fit & knowledgeable work force due partly to better nutrition, better general health, etc.

Both are necessary for the National Security.

Therefore, this particular law is faulty in many ways, even if the individual mandate is upheld or not.

Dec. 14 2010 10:48 AM
Longstreet from NYC area

You are undoubtedly a public sector employee.
I suppose you mean by careful, thoughtful gov't you would point to the way the health care law was passed?
I seem to remember the legislative process being seedy. I also remember being told by Pelosi that they had to pass the bill to tell us what was in it. That's the new way of doing things? No, thanks.
You'd do well to familiarize yourself with the idea of freedom.

Dec. 14 2010 10:41 AM
Peter from New York, NY

As long as we refuse to give the federal government the authority to take measures to solve nationwide crises like the healthcare insurance crisis, we will continue to fall even further behind the rest of the developed world in terms of economic and social progress. We must recognize that insurance companies have simply become too strong and their erosion of affordable care in favor of profits too prevalent to leave the solution to the states. This is a national crisis, with lives being lost on the scale of any war we have fought, albeit silently and without fanfare, and we must recognize that it requires extraordinary measures at the federal level to solve. It is also draining our economy of resources through the waste, duplication, and profiteering that the current disorganized, fragmented, noncomprehensive system allows. People fail to recognize the urgency and seriousness of this crisis. I am a physician so I am seeing the carnage first-hand.

Dec. 14 2010 10:35 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

@ Sheldon from Brooklyn - I agree with you and others that state that a public option would have ended this dilemma, but that's not what confronts us politically.

What we do have in lieu of the public option - as unfortunate as it is - is a mandate to be covered by private insurance. In this business-first corporatacracy that is the U.S. (especially in this era), the closest thing we can do to provide widespread healthcare is to use the shoddy private insurance industry. One thing I believe the right wing has correct (and for once I hope they're right) is that the current healthcare law will develop into a more robust version, complete with a public option. First cover everyone since healthcare is an economic and safety issue for our society.

Dec. 14 2010 10:34 AM
Jill from East Village

@ rlewis, I think medicare should be open to young and healthy people, and I think it will such a good deal that they won't opt out. Australia has medicare for all, and people love it there. Young people want health insurance, and the reason why they are taking the gamble to go without is because it's crazy expensive and you get little in return.

Dec. 14 2010 10:34 AM
Longstreet from NYC area

Still waiting, hot-shots.

Dec. 14 2010 10:34 AM
PRobb from NJ

This may be the very thing needed to finally make the "public option" a reality.

Dec. 14 2010 10:33 AM
Andy from Brooklyn, NY

I've never understood why the law was set up to impose a tax on people who don't purchase insurance -- it's setting things up for a constitutional challenge because it looks like a penalty for not buying a particular product. It seems like the issue could have been easily avoided by imposing a federal tax of $750 (or whatever) on everyone, and then creating a $750 tax break for people who purchase insurance. Semantics, maybe, but it seems like that would have helped avoid the constitutional issue.

Dec. 14 2010 10:33 AM
Alex from Astoria

It's an absolute tragedy that the health care bill became what it is today at all. The single payer system was the only reasonable way to go and Obama had to compromise this away in order to get the pseudo-democrats to sign on for it.

The fact that we are required to buy private insurance from a private company mandated by the government is simply a boon for the insurance companies and no-one else.

Dec. 14 2010 10:33 AM

So WHAT if the gov't makes people buy health insurance. I don't think it's a bad thing at all. Doing that protects everyone by making sure people with insurance aren't paying for the people who don't have insurance and end up in emergency rooms, etc. We end up paying for people without insurance with higher premiums on our own insurance. so why not make sure everyone is covered so that the burden is on everyone equally!

I think people are paranoid and short sighted about this. I think it's OK if the gov't pushes us along to do things like this that will benefit everyone in the long run. If the Obama admin can show that doing this won't mean the gov't will legislate things like what vegetables we eat (who just said that recently? it's a paranoid argument in my opinion!) then that should at least let people see this won't run rampant to other areas of their life.

To me, a careful, thoughtful gov't can actually push people along to do things they should be doing anyway! (one example, mayor bloomberg making it harder to smoke in nyc... less smokers, healthier ny'ers, and less people with smoking related illness, better for everyone!). People in this country don't like the govt intruding into their lives, but I think it can be good for the govt to intrude if it's in ways that will benefit everyone.

I think people in this country are out for themselves way too much. We should be thinking more as a whole, rather than what we can get individually. My two cents!

Dec. 14 2010 10:33 AM
Gordon from Manhattan

It appears that the mechanism of the law needs refinement, but the opposition needs to help with that. Otherwise, the purely constitutional alternative is "no pay, no service". Is that where even the 'tea Party' wants to end up?

Dec. 14 2010 10:32 AM
Left of Dem from New York


I suspect that the public option would not have enlarged the Commerce Clause in this way. That is why he rejected it.
It is at least as likely as any other explanation, since he has not been ingenuous on this matter.

Dec. 14 2010 10:32 AM
Lenore from Upper West Side, Manhattan

Thanks to Brian for FINALLY bringing up the recusal issues and links to Cucinelli as well, though he mocked it by referring to it as "conspiratorial."

Why is it conspiratorial?

I think it's a clear indication of who owns this government.

And I didn't hear a word about it on the news this morning.

Dec. 14 2010 10:31 AM

The people that complain about having to buy insurance are the same people that would complain about having to pay the hospital bill if they need emergency care while uninsured (if they can get a doctor to see them.)

Dec. 14 2010 10:30 AM
Barbara from NYC

If you don't buy Medicare Part D when you become eligible, you pay a penalty when you purchase it at a later date.

Dec. 14 2010 10:28 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I know that in Israel you are required to buy health insurance, the price of which is proportional to your income, even if you are on welfare. And you can even go to jail if you don't. But then, in Israel you are even required to buy a solar water heater, and every building an private house must have a bomb shelter by law as well. But then, Israel doesn't have an American style constitution.

Dec. 14 2010 10:28 AM
Glen Parker from Brooklyn

The commerce clause, which empowers the federal gov't to regulate commerce among the several states, is too broad as it is interpreted. It's given the federal government a lot of power from ensuring civil rights to regulating farming. Healthcare is the distinct province of the states and although mandating people to buy health insurance falls within the distended meaning of the commerce clause, it clearly violates the principles of federalism.

Dec. 14 2010 10:27 AM
rlewis from bowery

@amalgam - the constitution just doesn't go on "de facto" anything. It must be a plain fact - I don't have to buy a car. period.

Dec. 14 2010 10:27 AM
Left of Dem from New York

The distinction between a 'penalty' and a 'tax' is that the former is is a market device that should not be allowed to the Government.
I would look to Cass Sunstein and behavioral economics for insight into this issue. Obama simply does not care about Constitutionality, he feels that he knows best and should be allowed to use implements that are convenient.
Penalties for certain behavior, rewards for others. If Government operates on this level there are very dangerous consequences to this kind of paternalism.

Dec. 14 2010 10:26 AM
NYCarl from East Village

They should have phrased the law as: A tax for health care UNLESS you can show that you have health care.

Dec. 14 2010 10:26 AM

If New York State can require that I have car insurance than the Federal Gov't should be able to require health ins.

Dec. 14 2010 10:26 AM
Brian Schatell

People may not be required to have health insurance, yet emergency rooms and EMS workers are required to treat the stricken, insured or not. Allow health care organizations to deny care to the uninsured, even in emergency situations, which currently is paid by those who ARE insured, then I suppose it would be fair not to require all to carry insurance.

Dec. 14 2010 10:24 AM
William from Manhattan

Kennesaw, GA, has a law on the books requiring every head of household to own a gun.

Dec. 14 2010 10:24 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Nick, paying taxes is NOT the same as the govt forcing you to buy a private product simply by being a citizen.

Nadia, driving is a privilege not a right.

I'm not a Conservative but it's a big creepy step for the Federal or any Govt to start forcing its citizens to buy a private product as a requirement of their existence.

If Obama had a public option we would not have this problem.

Dec. 14 2010 10:23 AM
Ken from Little Neck

Here's the problem I have with the car insurance analogy - you can choose not to have a car, but you can't choose not to have health needs. Everybody will get sick, injured, etc, at some point in their life and will need medical care. What do you do then?

Dec. 14 2010 10:22 AM


A lot of money is spent by taxpayers, hospitals, rate payers to cover the uninsured. This is a bit part of the high cost of health care.

Are conservatives arguing to repeal the federal law that requires hospitals to "stabilize" everyone that shows up at the emergency room regardless of ability to pay? If not, they are hypocrites.

This would greatly negate the need for everyone to have health insurance?

Dec. 14 2010 10:21 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

@ rlewis from the bowery - In de jure way, you might not have to buy a car in NYC, but in the rest of the country, de facto you, in essence, must buy a car.

Regardless of that reality, my point below stands.

Dec. 14 2010 10:21 AM
Katie from Huntington

If the government can't force us to buy health insurance, then the hospitals should not be forced to treat people who wander into the emergency room with the flu without it. They clog up the emergency room so that real emergencies suffer and stiff the hospitals for the bill, the cost of which is then passed on to those who are paying for insurance.

Dec. 14 2010 10:21 AM
Jay F.

Not every state has a helmet law...

Dec. 14 2010 10:20 AM
rlewis from the Bowery

Jill, the entire problem with the insurance system is that too many people are chosing to not be insured, esp. young people, and without them paying in, the system cannot sustain itself. If you only let old or sick people pay once they reach that point, then the system will fail. Healthy people must pay into the system, because we all know that good health is temporary. Eventually we all get sick and die. And as a Christian nation, we are not going to let uninsured people die in our streets - who pays for them, if they didn't pay when they were healthy?

Dec. 14 2010 10:19 AM
Chris from Pittsburgh

OK, so if you don't have to drive and by extension you don't have to buy car insurance, does that mean you don't have to get sick either? Of course, they're not the same thing. Everyone needs health care at some time.

Dec. 14 2010 10:19 AM

"...*if* you buy a car, you *have* to buy insurance." By extension of that argument to renter's insurance and housing insurance, it implies that *housing* is optional!

Reductio ad absurdum >_<

Dec. 14 2010 10:18 AM
Edward Grant from Brooklyn

While overall I support the new law (as anemic as it is) I am bothered by the fact we are being mandated to purchase insurance from for-profit private companies. After all, it originated from the the GOP, mainly with Mitt Romney. Irony?Why not a non-profit public alternative? Or better, single payer. Gets the burden off of businesses and solves the mandate conundrum.

I think any market based, private profit oriented insurance is financially wasteful, inefficient and immoral. My health is not a commodity, I am not a widget. And this whole "liberty" argument is hollow. It is base greed and sanctimonious moralizing, nothing more.

Dec. 14 2010 10:17 AM
Don from Smithtown

Why can't we, instead of a "penalty" for people who don't have insurance, raise taxes a tiny bit, and give people a "tax break" if they have insurance?

Dec. 14 2010 10:16 AM
Susan from NYC

It is outrageous that anyone should be shoveled into the insatiable maw of the insurance companies, without the possibility of a public option. The current plan is nothing but another corporate welfare scheme, like banks and auto companies, forcing the poor and middle class to subsidize big insurance. We are in the midst of a recession bordering on depression, and these supposed "reforms" will force those of us just getting by to spend a substantial percentage of our incomes on what the government mandates, even if we can barely pay rent and food bills. Marginal businesses (of which there are more and more--see unemployment rate and closed storefronts) will either have to cut employees or cut wages. The only winners are the soon-to-be subsidized insurance companies, who will be laughing all the way to the already-subsidized banks.

Dec. 14 2010 10:16 AM
Dinu from NY, NY

I think the issue misrepresents the facts. You are not PENALIZED for not buying health insurance you just don't get the tax incentive. This is like saying I get penalized for not having kids.

Dec. 14 2010 10:16 AM

We live as it we have a right to clean drinking water but we can't be forced to hook up to a water system.

Dec. 14 2010 10:16 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

Besides the fact that Justice Hudson has invested with his hard-earned cash in a politically strategy company that worked to DEFEAT healthcare (see j above), healthcare, like driver's insurance, is an economic and safety issue for people outside of one's own narrow interests.

To wit, when you don't have health insurance and are still treated (by law), you still have to pay, with many people NOT being able to do so, thus driving up costs and hurting our society's overall health and well being.

Dec. 14 2010 10:15 AM

strictly speaking, the constitution may not allow the federal government to penalize individuals for failing to buy a health insurance, per se. however, it can impose a tax to cover the cost of charity care subsidies and exempt everybody who does buy health insurance, which accomplishes esentially the same thing. if the law is not structured this way already it probably should be, and could be rewritten this way.

Dec. 14 2010 10:15 AM
Amon from Brooklyn, NY

Each driver in this country is required by law to purchase Auto insurance and wear a seat-belt. Motorcycle owners are required "By Law" to wear a helmet. ...

Dec. 14 2010 10:14 AM
rlewis from the bowery

ok folks, let's stay fact-based - no one required to buy car insurance. i don't own a car and no one is forcing me to buy insurance. also, this healthcare law is being fought under the "commerce clause" and not the equal taxation law as socila security. Personally, I think it has to be fought under the taxation law just like SS and that the current approach makes the fight in the courts, instead of where it should be fought - in the congress, but once again, those dufusses punted.

Dec. 14 2010 10:13 AM
Jill from East Village

This question could have been avoided by simply creating an extension of Medicare that people would have the choice to opt into. Anyone wanting to stay in the private system or be uninsured could have done so, but the offer would be hard for most to pass up.

Dec. 14 2010 10:13 AM
peter from Athens, GA

The argument that its unconstitutional would hold water if we (taxpayers) weren't forced to pay for all the uninsured's inevitable emergency room visits. Healthcare isn't voluntary (like buying a car). You don't get to choose to have your body deteriorate or not. Inevitably we all need healthcare and we've got to figure out a way to pay for the inevitable healthcare needs of the currently uninsured. Monthly (subsidized when/if necessary) premiums by all citizens is better than paying out of the local, state and national tax pool. Thats double dipping on those of us who are paying premiums and paying for the uninsured with our taxes.

Dec. 14 2010 10:13 AM

@Nadia Zonis:
Auto insurance is a State-level mandate unless you're an interstate trucker in which case it's a quasi-Federal mandate (and even so, you're limited to which states you can ship to).

Dec. 14 2010 10:11 AM
Robert from NYC

We wouldn't be facing these problems if we had a single payer public option. I personally believe this is unconstitutional and I think so too is car insurance. I don't drive but I never thought forcing people to buy insurance was not constitutional.

Dec. 14 2010 10:10 AM
Brandon Lacy Campos from Hell's Kitchen, New York

Of course it does. The Constitution gives the states the right to regulate interstate commerce. The commercial impact of health care (including the cost to the systems for those that do not have health insurance) cross state lines easily and often. Thus, if the commercial impact of not having health care crosses state lines then Congress has the right to impose mandates on individuals that will impact interstate commerce.

Dec. 14 2010 10:10 AM
Chris from Pittsburgh

Could your guest talk a bit about the difference between being required to buy car insurance, versus being required to buy health insurance?

Dec. 14 2010 10:10 AM
Leah from Brooklyn

Brian, please comment (as commenter here J did) on the fact that this judge owns part of a GOP consulting firm that the plaintiff paid about $9,000 to in 2009 and 2010. Can Dahlia speak to the conflict of interest and the likelihood of this ruling to be struck down?

Dec. 14 2010 10:08 AM
Robert from Morristown, NJ

Each state "forces" it's residents to purchase minimum auto insurance. The world keeps spinning.

Dec. 14 2010 10:08 AM
Nick from UWS

If they are going to strike this mandate down, they had better look at the constitutional validity of the income tax, which is also a mandated purchase at the point of a gun. And we the public don't even know what we are being forced to purchase.

I assert that this ruling opens up the precedent to challenge the constitutional validity of a mandated income tax.

Dec. 14 2010 10:06 AM
Longstreet from NYC area

...and the left learns another surprising lesson about the country's founding document.
Some of us are still waiting for one of you hot-shots on the left to explain how the government forcing every individual to buy an insurance policy is compatitble with liberty.

Dec. 14 2010 10:03 AM

I rent my apartment, therefore I theoretically pay more taxes because I don't get to deduct mortgage payments. Does this mean the government is unconstitutionally punishing me for not owning a house? Sure, it's a stick to buy insurance rather than a carrot to buy property, but it's still someone trying to sway my behavior through the taxes I do or don't have to pay. Is it just the fact that it's negative reinforcement rather than positive that makes it unconstitutional?

Dec. 14 2010 09:54 AM
Douglas Andersen from Lexington, KY

What does this ruling mean for " individual's right to choose to participate" in Medicare or Social Security? Can employers now choose to opt out of their share of Social Security payments? Can young people opt out of Social Security and then opt back in later in life?

Dec. 14 2010 09:03 AM
j from bklyn

shouldn't this judge have recused himself?

one of the comments, @ 6 down, by gbisloc, a former clerk for a Repub judge,gave the legal points/arguments.

Dec. 14 2010 09:03 AM
Nadia Zonis from Manhattan

I'm confused. Isn't everyone required by law to have car insurance? Or is that state law, not federal law? Anybody have any insight on this?

Dec. 14 2010 09:02 AM
Marcelino from

I guess people don't want everybody to get a chance to have health care coverage. I'd wish that people understand what this medical/health law does. I would like to see my children covered if they can't find a job since I have medical coverage from my employer.

Dec. 14 2010 02:06 AM

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