Judge Henry Hudson* of the US District Court of Eastern Virginia overturned certain provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act this afternoon as a part of a suit launched by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cucinelli against the federal government.
Specifically, Hudson’s issue was that the federal government does not have the constitutional authority to force people to purchase health care insurance. The entire argument for mandated insurance coverage is that once you pool people into groups who have coverage, the overall financial model for the health care industry becomes more sustainable and cheaper to maintain, overall. This isn’t a question of political inclination, this is an established fact.
Opponents of the initiative brought suit against the legislation in the wake of its passage, mostly, in my opinion, for political purposes. What I don’t understand is that we have the same laws as they relate to cars and insurance coverage in this country. If you drive, you have to buy auto insurance. The argument that I’ve heard from conservatives is that this is different in the fact that you only have to be born in order to be subject to the provision mandating health coverage. Driving, they argue, is different, as it’s a privilege that people choose to engage in. That response always amuses me. How many of you in Michigan or Texas or Florida have a realistic option of getting yourself to work in something that’s not your car? Outside of maybe a dozen cities in the US, if you don’t drive, you’re going to be spending a lot of time at home. As such, I don’t think their argument holds much water.
So, this suit will proceed to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where it’ll inevitably make its way to the Supreme Court. At which point, Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the deciding vote in what will most likely be a 5-4 ruling.
UPDATE: So perhaps instead of being concerned with New World explorer name games, perhaps I should have been reading Gawker this morning. Because, according to them, the Judge Hudson owns a sizable share of a political consulting firm that did a significant amount of work against the legislation, and with whom Attorney General Cucinelli has done business before. While the Judge may have arrived at the same conclusions regardless of his ownership, one would expect, particularly from a federal judge, to know the adage that avoiding even the appearance of wrongdoing is just about as damaging as wrongdoing itself. Because even if you appear to be doing wrong, without actual transgression, everyone thinks you’re corrupt. Kind of like now, once the Judge has handed down a decision that may potentially benefit himself, at least economically.
*Not to be confused with the noted English explorer of the 17th century. Har har har.