California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

California, Other States File Brief in Defense of Health Reform Law

California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) recently signed an amicus brief filed in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals defending the constitutionality of the federal health reform law, Lake County News reports.

The friend-of-the-court brief also was signed by attorneys general from:

  • Connecticut;
  • Delaware;
  • Hawaii;
  • Iowa;
  • Maryland;
  • New York;
  • Oregon;
  • Vermont; and
  • Washington, D.C. (Lake County News, 4/13).

Background

On Jan. 31, U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson ruled that the health reform law's requirement that most U.S. residents purchase health coverage or face a penalty is unconstitutional. Vinson also invalidated the entire law because he concluded that the mandate is "inextricably bound" to other provisions in the law.

Amid conflicting interpretations of his ruling, Vinson on March 3 issued a stay of his ruling, permitting implementation of the overhaul to continue while the Obama administration pursues an appeal.

On March 11, the 11th Circuit appeals court granted the administration's request to expedite an appeal of Vinson's ruling (California Healthline, 4/4).

Details of Amicus Brief

In the brief, the attorneys general argue that the Constitution gives Congress broad authority to regulate interstate commerce and that an individual's decision to buy health coverage affects interstate commerce because it allows for the formation of risk pools and lowers health care costs.

The attorneys general also note that the minimum coverage provision of the reform law reduces the need to shift the cost of uncompensated care to states and individuals with private insurance.

The brief states, "Not only is the minimum coverage necessary to carry out Congress' goals of lowering the costs of medical care and expanding insurance coverage, it is a proper exercise of federal authority that does not alter the essential attributes of state sovereignty" (Lake County News, 4/13).

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