Perhaps it was as inevitable as death and taxes that legal challenges would be made against 'Obamacare.' Once that fact was obvious to even casual observers, it should have become just as apparent that members of the judicial branch would not be any less divided on the issue than their legislative counterparts. In just the latest example of this, a Virginia District Court judge ruled that the obligation to purchase insurance was unconstitutional after holding that the power to mandate insurance falls outside the scope of the Commerce Clause. Comparisons to compulsory auto insurance were brushed aside by explaining that states, rather than the federal government, are in control of auto insurance and that purchasing automobiles is a choice by consumers, not a statutory requirement.
Such a ruling, if upheld after the almost inevitable appeal, could put a huge dent in the effectiveness of the overall scheme as insurers have suggested that insuring all may be the only way to provide affordable insurance for those with expensive pre-existing conditions. The case is one of three which have been decided concerning different parts of the bill, but is the first where a provision was voided. Over 20 others are in various states of completion in various jurisdictions across the US.
As noted, the ruling is only one of many which have been/will be made on the healthcare bill. And as a District Court ruling, it is only precedential in its district (though practically it could inform other judge's decisions). Further, the judge in the case, Henry Hudson (of Michael Vick dogfighting case fame) declined to suspend implementation pending appeal, meaning there will be no immediate effect on putting the provisions of the bill in place. In short, proponents of universal healthcare should not necessarily fret...at least not quite yet.
The ruling does, however, point to two important facts. The healthcare debate, though settled on the floors of Congress, is far from settled in the halls of justice, and likely will not be until one or several joined cases make it to the highest court in the land. Secondly, until that time, it is highly likely to remain a highly charged, highly partisan debate. More details on the ruling along with analysis can be found in The New York Times.