Federal Judge Strikes Down Key Part Of Health Law A federal district court judge in Virginia has handed the new health law a setback. The judge has ruled that Congress overstepped its constitutional authority in requiring most people to either get health insurance or pay a penalty.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Key Part Of Health Law

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


But as NPR's Julie Rovner reports, backers of the law are actually breathing a sigh a relief over the ruling.

JULIE ROVNER: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who filed the lawsuit in March the day President Obama signed the health bill into law, was jubilant at a news conference shortly after the decision was announced.

BLOCK: It's a great day for the Constitution today.

ROVNER: Like many other Republican state officials who have filed a separate lawsuit in Florida, Cuccinelli charged that Congress went too far by requiring even people who'd rather not have health insurance to get it.

BLOCK: The individual mandate is unconstitutional because ordering Americans to buy health insurance, as the bill does, is beyond the Congress's power under the Commerce Clause.

ROVNER: And Judge Henry Hudson, appointed by President George W. Bush, agreed. Since even before the bill passed, opponents have argued that Congress cannot regulate inactivity.

BLOCK: They wanted to convert the decision to do nothing into economic activity or into something that affects economic activity, and this judge and this court rejected that leap of logic and language.

ROVNER: Stephanie Cutter is a White House health adviser.

BLOCK: If insurance companies are required to give coverage to anybody, even if they're sick, then most people will wait until they get sick to get insurance. And that means that only the sick will be in the insurance market, and the healthy will live without insurance. So we're talking about up to 20 percent increases in premiums.

ROVNER: Still, Cutter and other backers of the law were thrilled with one aspect of Judge Hudson's ruling. It apparently only applies to the requirement for individuals to have insurance. It leaves the rest of the law untouched.

BLOCK: So we're going to continue implementing. The law is already making a difference in people's lives. You know, college kids can get on their parents' plans when they graduate. Children can no longer be discriminated against if they have a preexisting condition. An insurance company can no longer drop you if you get sick.

ROVNER: And, notes Cutter, not only is the Virginia case a narrow one, it's only one of many.

BLOCK: Since the law passed, more than 20 challenges have been filed to the law. We've won in two of those cases.

ROVNER: Meanwhile, the administration and Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli do agree on one thing when it comes to the health law.

BLOCK: It is acknowledged by all that we expect this case to end in the Supreme Court. How quickly we get there is as yet unknown.

ROVNER: Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.

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