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Obama's Health-Care Reform Law Survives Challenge by Christian College

The Obama administration’s health- care overhaul survived a federal court challenge in Virginia by a Christian college.

The suit, brought by Liberty University and five individuals, claimed the health-care reform law didn’t protect against mandatory insurance payments being used to fund abortion coverage. Their claim that the law is unconstitutional was rejected yesterday by a judge in Lynchburg.

“Plaintiffs fail to allege how any payments required under the act, whether fines, fees, taxes, or the cost of the policy, would be used to fund abortion,” U.S. District Judge Norman Moon wrote in his ruling. “The challenged provisions of the act are well within Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause” of the U.S. Constitution, he said in a 54-page decision.

The case is one of several challenges to the health-care act, including a lawsuit filed in Florida federal court by 20 states. A separate action filed by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli is before a federal judge in Richmond.

A federal judge in Michigan upheld the constitutionality of the health-care overhaul in October, rejecting an argument by a self-described Christian law center in the first court victory for the new law.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Florida, in October ruled that the 20-state challenge could go forward after finding that the U.S. government’s expansion of power is “simply without prior precedent.” He is scheduled to hear further argument on Dec. 16.

‘We Are Confident’

“In the weeks ahead there will be additional court cases examining this matter and the health reform law,” Stephanie Cutter, assistant to Obama for special projects, said yesterday in a blog posted on the White House website. “We can’t predict the outcome of each case, but we are confident that we will ultimately prevail in court.”

Liberty University and the other plaintiffs will appeal, their attorney, Mathew D. Staver, said in telephone interview. “This is only a bump in the road.”

“I am confident that the federal health-care law will eventually be struck down on appeal because it is unconstitutional,” he said in an e-mailed statement. “Congress does not have the authority to force every American to purchase a particular kind of health insurance product.”

Freedom of Religion

Liberty University, which is located in Lynchburg, and the other plaintiffs sued in March, alleging that provisions of the act violated their rights of freedom of religion, association and equal protection, citing requirements for purchasing health insurance by individuals or providing such benefits by employers.

The law violates the Constitution because it “mandates that plaintiffs and other individuals and employers participate in interstate commerce by purchasing health insurance coverage for themselves and/or their employees without regard for financial, economic, social, religious or cultural considerations,” Liberty University said in its complaint.

“The individual coverage requirement is a valid exercise of federal power,” Moon said yesterday. Requiring employers to offer a minimum level of health insurance is similar to laws mandating a minimum wage, he said.

“The judge’s ruling today only underscores the importance of the law’s individual responsibility provision,” Cutter said yesterday. “In order to make health care affordable and available for all, the Act regulates how to pay for medical services.”

The case is Liberty University v. Geithner, 6:10-cv-00015, U.S. District Court, Western District of Virginia (Lynchburg).

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit at mcfisk@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net.

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