In a second judicial victory for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a federal judge in Virginia threw out Liberty University’s lawsuit that challenged the legality of the Obama administration’s landmark healthcare reform law. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon of Lynchburg is the second court decision upholding the law, following one in Michigan in October. Liberty University law school dean Mathew Staver plans to quickly appeal the ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. Liberty University is a faith-based institution that was founded in 1971 by the late Jerry Falwell.
Judge Moon, writing in his 53-page opinion, said that “there is a rational basis for Congress to conclude that individuals’ decisions about how and when to pay for healthcare are activities that in the aggregate substantially affect the interstate healthcare market.” Liberty claimed in its suit that the obligation that individuals buy health insurance or pay a penalty is an improper exercise of congressional authority under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. The university argued – unsuccessfully — that the decision to not purchase insurance is not an economic activity that can be regulated by Congress.
Two additional lawsuits are still pending. The Florida attorney general has filed a similar suit in his state; there is another challenge from Virginia attorney general Kenneth Cuccinelli, which is on the docket in a federal court in Richmond. U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson expects to rule in Cuccinelli’s lawsuit by year’s end.
“In the weeks ahead, there will be additional court cases examining this matter and the health reform law,” Stephanie Cutter, assistant to the president for special projects, wrote in a White House blog post. “We can’t predict the outcome of each case, but we are confident that we will ultimately prevail in court and continue to deliver the benefits of reform to the American people.”