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Judge rules health care law's insurance mandate unconstitutional

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Justice Department argues many do not "choose" to participate in health care market
  • A federal judge rules against requiring people to purchase health insurance
  • The bill has faced several lawsuits challenging the individual mandate
  • The measure was passed by the Democratic Congress last year

(CNN) -- A Pennsylvania federal judge ruled Tuesday that the provision in President Barack Obama's health care initiative requiring individuals to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional.

The bill, which was passed by the Democratic Congress and signed into law last year, has faced a deluge of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner said the provision violates parameters established by the Constitution's commerce clause.

"The power to regulate interstate commerce does not subsume the power to dictate a lifetime financial commitment to health insurance coverage," he wrote in the ruling.

The Justice Department has argued that since most people will eventually need medical care, individuals do not "choose" to participate in the health care market, and therefore dramatically increase aggregate costs when they seek treatment without insurance coverage.

"The commerce clause was designed for when national regulation is necessary, where the states acting on their own would not be able to reach an optimal solution," said Kermit Roosevelt, law professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Critics disagree, arguing the measure reflects an overreach of federal authority.

The bill includes 450 components, some of which will not go into effect for another two years.

Court rulings on the mandate have been mixed, and the question is expected to eventually end up in the hands of the Supreme Court.