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The right to choose

Throughout last year’s debate on health care, critics warned President Obama and the Democratic Congress against one colossal overreach: forcing all Americans to purchase health insurance.

Those arguments failed to keep the seismic legislation — and the radical insurance mandate — from becoming law. But they formed the foundation of numerous lawsuits against the statute.

And on Monday, a federal judge slapped down the individual insurance requirement and the Obama administration’s legal justification for it. U.S. District Henry Hudson of Virginia forcefully declared: "Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause power to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market."

Judge Hudson is exactly right. The Founding Fathers crafted the Constitution to create a federal government of limited, not unlimited, powers. And for too long, Congress and the courts have found the words that govern our republic can mean whatever they want them to. Judge Hudson’s ruling draws a line — for now.

ObamaCare’s many other provisions, which will fundamentally alter health insurance policies starting Jan. 1, remain in effect. The judge noted that there was no need for him to stop the measure from becoming law because the individual mandate doesn’t take effect until 2014.

Other challenges to ObamaCare await their chance to be heard. A federal judge in Florida, for example, is scheduled to hear arguments from Nevada and 19 other states later this week challenging on 10th Amendment grounds not only the individual mandate but also Medicaid expansion.

Meantime, Virginia’s attorney general said he’ll ask that any appeal of Judge Hudson’s ruling go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. That case would be among the most important in the nation’s history.

"At its core," Judge Hudson wrote, "this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance — or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage — it’s about an individual’s right to choose to participate."

Indeed.

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