Florida Lawsuit Could Pose Real Risk to Health Reform Implementation
A lawsuit filed in Pensacola, Fla., just minutes after President Obama signed the health reform overhaul in March is one of at least a dozen challenges to the law but could be the best-positioned for success if it eventually appears before the Supreme Court, the New York Times reports.
The suit was filed by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) and focuses on the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause, which empowers Congress to regulate interstate commerce and has traditionally been broadly interpreted by the high court. According to the Times, McCollum questions whether Congress can regulate inactivity, specifically by penalizing individuals who do not obtain health insurance.
The litigation also challenges the federal government's expansion of Medicaid as "an unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of states" and claims that the penalty for not obtaining health insurance is an illegal direct tax.
Although there is a broad assumption that the Supreme Court will ultimately review the health law, various legal challenges in lower courts could take more than two years, the Times reports. According to the Times, the government likely would contend that individuals who remain uninsured will affect the pricing and availability of policies because of price fluctuations within the health insurance market.
Democratic leaders also tried to protect against constitutional challenges within the legislation by speculating that the individual mandate "substantially affects interstate commerce." They also specified that the penalty for uninsurance is an "excise tax."
Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School, predicted the courts would uphold the law but noted that the case is complicated and that Florida's arguments are compelling.
According to Turley, "There are few cases in the history of the court system that have a more significant assertion of authority by the government," adding, "This case, more than any other, may give the court sticker shock in terms of its impact on federalism" (Sack, New York Times, 5/10).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.