Judge Issues First Rejection of Individual Mandate in Reform Law

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In the first ruling striking down the mandate to buy individual insurance in the healthcare reform law, a federal judge in Virginia said Congress does not have the power to require Americans to carry health insurance or pay a fine, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

The ruling contradicts two other federal judges' decisions rejecting similar challenges. More challenges are awaiting rulings, including a 21-state lawsuit that is scheduled to begin oral arguments in Florida Thursday.

Opponents of the mandate argue it violates an individual's freedom of choice under the Constitution, while supporters argue healthcare is different from other commercial markets because illness is inevitable and involuntary and everyone requires some form of care.

Supreme Court dismissal of mandate not a sure thing
Everyone agrees the challenges will end up in the conservative-leaning Supreme Court, but the high court's ultimate rejection of the mandate is by no means certain. "Some prominent conservative justices will go against it, but there is no serious indication that every single one will go against it," said Mark Hall, a professor at Wake Forest University School of Law, who serves on a federal advisory board to implement the law.

Universal coverage is seen as a necessary prerequisite for the law's popular requirement that people with preexisting conditions get coverage. Without a mandate to buy insurance, people could buy insurance when they are already ill and insurers would incur big losses. But Dan Mendelson at Avalere Health said there are other ways to protect insurers if the mandate is shot down, such as limiting the times when people could sign up for insurance.

Read the Wall Street Journal report on healthcare reform.

Read more coverage of challenges against the individual mandate to buy insurance:

-Another Reform Law Challenge Struck Down

-Supreme Court Refuses to Weigh in With Early Review of Reform Law

-4 Reasons Why Even a Repeal Won't Stop Healthcare Reform, Accountable Care

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