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The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Issued a Declaratory Judgment Today Finding PPACA’s Minimum Essential Coverage Provision Exceeds the Constitutional Boundaries of Congressional Power


The Attorney General of Virginia brought suit on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia challenging the constitutionality of Section 1501 of PPACA, commonly known as the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision or the Individual Mandate. This provision requires that every United States citizen, unless specifically excepted, maintain a minimum level of health insurance coverage for each month beginning in 2014, or the individual will have to pay a penalty. 

The Court found that the penalty operated, in fact, as a penalty rather than a tax necessitating that Congress’s authority to enact the penalty would have to be tied to a valid exercise of the Commerce Clause and the associated Necessary and Proper Clause, rather than the General Welfare Clause. However, the Court found that Congress had lacked the power under the Commerce Clause “to compel an individual to involuntarily engage in a private commercial transaction, as contemplated by the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision.” The Court went on to state that this dispute “is not simply about regulating the business of insurance—or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage—it’s about an individual’s right to choose to participate.” 

The Court ordered that Section 1501 be severed from the remainder of PPACA, but declined to issue an injunction. The ruling does not address any of the remaining PPACA provisions. The issue will now go up on appeal.

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