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Affordable Care Act Ruling in Virginia District Court

December 13, 2010

Today, a District Court judge in Virginia ruled one provision of the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Fourteen other judges have already ruled against similar lawsuits and the judge today refused to freeze implementation of the law during the appeals process, meaning Americans already benefiting from health insurance reform – or set to benefit soon – will not be affected. The WhiteHouse.gov blog explains:

Today’s narrow ruling in Virginia on the constitutionality of a provision of the Affordable Care Act is just one of many recent rulings on similar cases that have come down in recent months. Since the law passed, opponents of reform have filed more than 20 different legal challenges. Judges have already granted the Administration’s motion to dismiss 12 of these cases. And in two cases, federal judges looked at the merits of the opponents’ arguments, determined that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and upheld the law.

We disagree with the ruling issued today in Virginia and the Department of Justice is considering its appeal options.

We are pleased that Judge Hudson agrees that implementation of the law will continue uninterrupted. In the nine months since the health reform law was passed, we’ve made tremendous progress to strengthen our health care system, including lowering costs and implementing a new patient’s bill of rights to end some of the worst insurance company abuses. That work continues. And we’re confident that when it’s all said and done, the courts will find the Affordable Care Act constitutional.

History and the facts are on our side. Similar legal challenges to major new laws — including the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act — were all filed and all failed. Contrary to what opponents argue the new law falls well within Congress’s power to regulate economic activity under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the General Welfare Clause.

Speaker Pelosi on the ruling:

Today’s court ruling stands in stark contrast to 14 similar challenges to the Affordable Care Act – in two, federal district judges strongly upheld the law; in the other 12, the challenges have been dismissed.

Since its enactment, health insurance reform has delivered concrete benefits to millions of Americans. Among provisions already benefitting the American people, it has offered small businesses a tax break to cover their workers, allowed young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, and provided assistance to seniors struggling to pay prescription drug costs. These changes are good for our middle class, and will not be impacted by this court’s decision to overturn a single provision of the law.

There have been and will continue to be a wide range of attempts to weaken this law. But as in previous court rulings across the country, I am confident that the Affordable Care Act will ultimately be sustained and will keep benefitting our middle class, our families, and our businesses, indeed every American. In Congress, we will stand firm against attempts to roll back the law, including the Patient’s Bill of Rights and the critical consumer protections enacted by health insurance reform.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Levin and Health Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stark on today’s ruling:

Chairman Levin: “A quality health care system for all Americans is built on the premise that responsibility is shared between employers, the government, and the individual. Fourteen similar cases have been dismissed or decided in favor of the Affordable Care Act, recognizing the importance of a functioning, affordable health care market, and I am confident that after review at the appellate level this case will also be decided in favor of the Affordable Care Act.”

Chairman Stark: “Apparently Republicans are now for judicial activism after they were against it. Unfortunately, we already know what happens if this lawsuit succeeds. Millions of Americans will lose their health insurance, premiums will go up for working families, and more people will be forced into bankruptcy when they get sick.”