Health & Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a Boston audience today that healthcare reform is moving ahead despite a Virginia judge’s ruling that a protion of the law is unconstitutional.
"The judge was asked in Virginia to strike down the whole law. He did not choose to do that. He was asked to stay the implementation to delay things until this was resolved. He chose not to do that," Sebelius said, adding that she’s "confident" that the U.S. Justice Dept.’s case "is sound and that this bill stands on solid constitutional footing.".
Judge Henry Hudson of the U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia ruled earlier this week that the 2014 mandate that all individuals buy healthcare insurance violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The Justice Dept. said yesterday it will appeal Hudson’s decision.
Two other federal judges in Michigan and Virginia had already ruled that aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are constitutional, after states attorneys general sued the government on grounds that it overstepped the Commerce Clause, which gives Congress the right to regulate interstate trade.
"A lot of the opponents who failed to stop the bill legislatively then turned their eyes to the courts, a pattern we’ve seen with other significant legislation in this country, and I think those challenges will make their way through various court systems," Sebelius told the crowd attending one of several regional seminars on fighting Medicare fraud at U-Mass-Boston.
Representatives from most states are in Washington, D.C., today to begin planning for the state-run health insurance exchanges that are the linchpin of the healthcare reform act. Each state will administer an insurance pool modeled after the one enacted by Massachusetts in 2006.
"What we’re seeing, moving ahead, is states beginning to engage in setting up new healthcare systems for their citizens,” Sebelius said. “Massachusetts is at the front of that line, but 46 or 47 states are there [in D.C.] over the next two days learn how to do just that."