Judge: Virginia health reform suit is 'only one brief stop' en route to the Supreme Court

A federal judge in Virginia conceded Monday that his ruling on the new healthcare law is just the first step in a much longer process.

"As you well know, this is only one brief stop on the way to the United States Supreme Court," U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson said during the first day of oral arguments in Virginia's constitutional challenge of the individual insurance mandate.

The case, brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, hinges on the question of whether Congress' authority over commercial activity includes the power to regulate commercial inactivity — i.e., a consumer's choice not to buy health insurance. 

Virginia Solicitor General E. Duncan Getchell argued Monday that the Constitution provides no such authority.

"The Supreme Court has never allowed inactivity to be regulated as commerce," he told Hudson, according to The Washington Post.

The Obama administration has a different take, arguing that healthcare is decidedly different from other commercial markets, because — illness being both inevitable and involuntary — everyone ultimately requires some form of care.

"The decision to get or not get insurance and essentially gamble that other people will pay for you when you get sick is not inactivity," Deputy U.S. Assistant Attorney General Ian H. Gershengorn told Hudson, the Post reported. "It is not passivity."

Hudson said he plans to have his verdict by the end of the year.