Click here for a copy of today’s ruling, in which U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Virginia found that the mandate included in the healthcare reform law requiring virtually every American to purchase health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty is unconstitutional. Given that a federal judge in Michigan ruled otherwise, the next stop for this dispute is the U.S. Supreme Court. Hudson also ruled that the mandate could be invalidated without finding the entire law unconstitutional.
The decision is already being described as a defeat for Obama that could further erode political support for reform. But the irony is thick. Obama, who didn’t want the mandate in the first place, had to be dragged on board. Yet Republican state attorneys general are the ones litigating against the mandate. Meanwhile, the health insurance industry — also an opponent of reform — favors the mandate to protect against adverse selection (i.e., only the sick buying insurance) and to ensure membership growth.