Federal court upholds health reform, tells Virginia it’s still in the Union


This just in:

A federal appeals court turned back a challenge by Virginia to the 2010 health-care law Thursday, ruling that the state lacks standing to challenge the law’s mandate that virtually all Americans obtain health insurance or pay a fine.

The court also turned back a challenge from Virginia’s Liberty University, giving health reform two wins in one day. We’re still reading through the decisions. The Liberty one’s here (pdf) and the one filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s here (pdf).

Mr. Cuccinelli rushed his suit against health reform to the courthouse last year after President Obama signed it, and then Mr. Cuccinelli won a round in December. The judge in that case was seen as a friendly and familiar draw for the AG, and he ruled that the individual mandate violated the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution.

The 4th Circuit, which ruled today, was having none of that. Its judges ruled that Virginia can’t sue in the case because it has nothing to lose from health reform. And never mind the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act, which says Virginians are exempt from the individual mandate to buy health insurance. From today’s decision (page 25):

[T]he VHCFA regulates nothing and provides for the administration of no state program. Instead, it simply purports to immunize Virginia citizens from federal law. In doing so, the VHCFA reflects no exercise of “sovereign power,” for Virginia lacks the sovereign authority to nullify federal law.

The court left aside the question of whether the individual mandate is constitutional. For now, young adults can stay on their parents’ coverage and insurers can’t exclude you for having a pre-existing condition, and small businesses get tax breaks for covering their workers, and so on and so on. Below, the video Mr. Cuccinelli posted after he won in December.