California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

States, GOP Plan To Challenge to Health Care Reform Legislation

In the wake of Sunday's House vote approving reform legislation (HR 3590), Republican opponents of the measure pledged to challenge the legislation in courts and launch other attempts to repeal the reform plan, the Washington Post reports.

The threat of legal actions "foretell[s] a period of court battles and statehouse resistance after months of opposition to the legislation," according to the Post.

More than 36 states are considering how best to challenge a new federal mandate that requires nearly all citizens obtain health coverage (Slevin/Helderman, Washington Post, 3/23).

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) said he will file suit against the legislation because it conflicts with a 12-day-old state law that says that no Virginia resident can be compelled by the federal government to have health insurance and that no resident will be forced to pay a penalty for not obtaining coverage (AP/Washington Times, 3/22). Cuccinelli's suit also will allege that the legislation exceeds Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce (Zeleny/Stolberg, New York Times, 3/22).

Like Virginia, Idaho recently approved a bill requiring the state attorney general to file suit if federal insurance mandates are enacted (Washington Post, 3/23). Idaho Gov. C. L. Otter (R) said he plans to meet Monday with Republican Govs. Haley Barbour (Miss.), Gary Herbert (Utah) and Rick Perry (Texas) to discuss ways to repeal federal health reform legislation (Weber, Washington Times, 3/22).

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) also plans to lead attorneys general from nine states -- Alabama, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington -- to block enactment of federal reform legislation, stating that it "violates the U.S. Constitution and infringes on each state's sovereignty" (Schwartz, New York Times, 3/22).

Legal Scholars Doubt Viability of State Lawsuits

Multiple constitutional scholars expressed doubt that courts would side with states in their challenges of the federal law.

"If there's anything that's settled in American constitutional law, it's that when the federal government acts within the scope of its constitutional powers, federal law prevails over any conflicting state law," Richard Pildes, a New York University law professor, said.

Michael McConnell, a conservative legal scholar at Stanford University, said, "If the federal bill is constitutional, then the state laws will be of no legal effect. If the federal bill is unconstitutional, then the state measures will be unnecessary."

Republican Members of Congress Plan To Introduce Repeal Bills

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) separately said they planned to introduce legislation that would repeal the reform legislation (Washington Post, 3/23).

The New York Times notes that many provisions that would take effect immediately -- such as a ban on insurers' ability to deny coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions -- are broadly popular with the public.

"Republicans also face the question of what happens if the health care bill does not create the cataclysm that they warned of during the many months of debate," the Times reports (Nagourney, New York Times, 3/22).

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