Health Law

Federal Judge Got It Wrong, Va. Lacks Standing to Challenge Health Care Reform, 4th Circuit Rules

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Developing: In a ruling today, the Richmond, Va.-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to strike down a controversial health care plan backed by President Barack Obama, nixing a challenge to the legislation by the state of Virginia.

A federal district court earlier held that the health plan didn’t pass constitutional muster because it requires uninsured individuals to purchase medical coverage from commercial carriers, CNN reports.

However, the 4th Circuit reversed, holding today that Virginia didn’t have standing to pursue its lawsuit over the so-called individual mandate issue.

Similarly, the appellate court didn’t reach the question of whether individuals can constitutionally be penalized for failing to purchase health insurance in a companion case, according to Reuters.

Two other federal appeals courts have split on the validity of the legislation—the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit upholding it in June, and the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit striking it down last month—based on reasoning at odds with the 4th Circuit’s view, law professor Randy Barnett of Georgetown University says. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make the final call on the issue.

“We have three different courts of appeals issuing three different rulings on three different bases,” Barnett tells NPR’s Shots blog. “One of which held the statute was unconstitutional, one of which held that it was constitutional, and one of which held that the federal court lacks jurisdiction to figure out whether it’s constitutional or not. If that doesn’t cry out for Supreme Court resolution, I don’t know what does.”

Barnett represents the National Federation of Independent Business, which would like to see the health care legislation invalidated.

Earlier coverage: “Broccoli Question Debated in Health Care Appeal; Panel Appears Likely to Uphold Law”

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