Florida Judge To Issue Ruling on States’ Suit Against Reform Law
This week, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Florida is expected to issue a decision that could determine whether a multistate lawsuit against the federal health reform law's individual mandate can proceed, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The lawsuit argues that Congress does not have the authority under the Constitution to require all U.S. residents to obtain health insurance and that states cannot be forced to spend more to provide coverage for low-income families. Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) filed the complaint in March, shortly after the law was enacted, with support from 19 other mostly Republican state attorneys general and the National Federation of Independent Business.
The Obama administration, in its defense against opposition to the law, has argued that the only way to improve the health insurance market is to require those who can afford to purchase minimum coverage to do so. The coverage mandate is scheduled to take effect in 2014, and individuals who fail to obtain minimum coverage by 2016 would face a tax penalty of about $700 annually.
Prospects for Lawsuit
If Vinson approves the lawsuit, the case is expected to advance to an appeals court in Atlanta.
Proponents of the overhaul have acknowledged that a dismissal is unlikely because both Vinson and the appellate court have conservative reputations, which would favor the plaintiffs.
Simon Lazarus, counsel for the National Senior Citizens Law Center, said the plaintiffs "feel they have a political tailwind behind them." Alluding to recent public opinion polls showing broad objections to the health reform law, Lazarus said, "They are getting out their political message, and judges are affected by what's going on in society."
Recent Ruling in Va. Lawsuit Could Be Harbinger
Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson posed a setback to the Obama administration when he rejected the administration's plea to dismiss a separate Virginia lawsuit that also challenges the constitutionality of the law's individual mandate. Â In his ruling, Hudson said, "Never before has the Commerce Clause â¦ been extended this far."
However, the attorneys general in the multistate lawsuit contend that Congress can regulate business and commerce. Instead, they argue that the individual mandate "rests upon the incredible contention that inactivity -- the failure to have health insurance -- constitutes economic activity" (Savage, Los Angeles Times, 9/13).
Defund the Law, Conservative Groups Say
On Monday, a coalition of conservative groups plans to send a letter to Republican congressional leaders urging them to halt funding for the health reform law, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The groups -- DeFundIt.org and the Tea Party Express -- say that the GOP should include the idea to defund the law as a pledge to voters ahead of the midterm elections in November. The letter will be sent to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other House Republican leaders.
The letter states, "If Congress can prevent the funds necessary to implement and enforce the law, a realistic prospect next year, the majority of its provisions will be effectively defeated until the law can be repealed and replaced entirely." Some Republicans already have made a similar pledge, should they regain a majority in Congress.
The groups note that repealing the entire law would face substantial roadblocks, such as a presidential veto (Adams, CQ HealthBeat, 9/13).
Rep. Price Says GOP Will Halt Law's Funds
In a related development, Republican Study Committee Chair Rep. Tom Price (Ga.) on Saturday reiterated the GOP's threat to withhold funding for the health reform law if the party regains control of the House this November, Politico reports.
Price, during a speech in Washington, D.C., said that Democrats had become "possessed" with comprehensive health reform, citing President Obama's promise to "make history" with the overhaul. Price added, "Well, we're going to make some history on Nov. 2, ladies and gentlemen" (Aujla, Politico, 9/11).
Conservative Version of AARP Set for Launch
Meanwhile, the for-profit Alliance for Retirement Prosperity, a $5 million "conservative challenge" to the AARP, is scheduled to be launched on Wednesday, Politico reports.
ARP -- which will be led by Social Security Institute President Larry Hunter, a prominent Republican adviser -- is expected to actively lobby for the repeal of the health reform law. ARP also is positioning itself as a competitor to AARP, which has become an ally to the Obama administration on most issues, including support of the health care overhaul.
As part of its launch, ARP will establish a website, a digital magazine and a mailing to two to three million seniors, inviting them to join the organization (Kliff, Politico, 9/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.