BREAKING: State Cannot Challenge PPACA’s Individual Mandate


The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Virginia’s constitutional challenge to the individual mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148) (PPACA), ruling that the courts have no jurisdiction because the state lacks standing to sue.  Standing is a requirement that the party bringing a lawsuit be threatened with an injury that a court decision would resolve.  The state contended that PPACA is an unconstitutional exercise of federal power that interferes with the state’s sovereignty, which it has standing to protect.  Specifically, PPACA conflicts directly with the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act (VHCFA), which provides that no resident may be required to obtain or maintain an individual health insurance policy.

The district court accepted this argument and ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional. However, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision. Virginia was not injured by PPACA because the federal law did not impose any obligation on the state. The conflict with the VHCFA injure the state’s interest  in enforcing its own laws because the state law was simply a declaration, imposing no obligations and without any provision for enforcement.  The court noted that Virginia brought its lawsuit the day PPACA was enacted and that the governor actually signed the VHCFA the next day. This ruling is in conflict with the recently released Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision on the same topic.

The court also released an opinion in the separate but similar case, Liberty University Inc. v. Geithner.

Commonwealth of Virginia v. Sebelius