US District Judge Henry Hudson struck down the “individual mandate” requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014. This ruling marks the first time any federal judge has stricken any part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson wrote that he is severing the portion of the law on the individual mandate, known as Section 1501, while not granting an injunction against the entire law. He acknowledged that the decision will have to go higher than his jurisdiction.
“The outcome of this case has significant public policy implications. And the final work will undoubtedly reside with a higher court.”
In the ruling, the judge ruled that the individual mandate exceeds the power of Congress under both the Constitution’s Commerce Clause and General Welfare Clause and effectively called out the Obama administration for trying to argue that the penalty on those who don’t buy insurance amounted to a tax — after denying it was a tax during the political debate over the bill. Hudson rejected the belated claim that the mandate and associated penalty count as an exercise of the government’s taxing power.
Hudson wrote that such a requirement “lacks logical limitation,” as it could just as easily apply to “transportation, housing or nutritional decisions.”
He wrote that every application of the Commerce Clause upheld to date involved “some form of action, transaction or deed placed in motion by an individual or legal entity,” whereas the question before the court dealt with a person’s refusal to purchase a product — in this case health insurance.
“Despite the laudable intentions of Congress in enacting a comprehensive and transformative health care regime, the legislative process must still operate within constitutional bounds,” he wrote. “Salutatory goals and creating drafting have never been sufficient to offset an absence of enumerated powers.”