Justice Department Files Formal Appeal in Ruling Against Health Reform
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a formal appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson's ruling invalidating the federal health reform law, along with a request for an expedited review of the Florida-based judge's decision, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 3/8).
Background on Vinson's Ruling
On Jan. 31, Vinson agreed with the plaintiffs -- state attorneys general and governors of 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Business and two individuals -- in the multistate lawsuit against the overhaul that the mandate exceeds Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce.
Vinson also invalidated the entire overhaul because he said the mandate was "inextricable" from the rest of the law. However, Vinson did not suspend further implementation of the overhaul -- which the plaintiffs had requested -- stating that he believed such an order is unnecessary because of a "long-standing presumption" that the federal government will comply with judicial rulings such as his.
Last month, the administration asked Vinson to clarify whether his ruling meant that further implementation of the law should be halted pending the outcome of an appeal. In response, Vinson last week issued a stay of his ruling, permitting implementation of the overhaul to continue in the 26 states (California Healthline, 3/4).
What's Next for Lawsuit
The lawsuit now proceeds to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, where judges likely will begin to hear oral arguments in the case in late summer or early fall (Haberkorn, Politico, 3/8).
According to one law expert, a three-judge panel at the court would hear the case, and the losing party could petition to have an appeal heard by the entire appellate court (Pelofsky/Bigg, Reuters, 3/8).
AHIP Files Amicus Brief in Virginia Lawsuit
In related news, America's Health Insurance Plans on Tuesday filed an amicus brief in the challenge against the reform law filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 3/8). In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson in December 2010 ruled the individual mandate is unconstitutional because it exceeds Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. Hudson did not invalidate the law or block its implementation (California Healthline, 2/4).
AHIP's brief -- which was filed in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., where judges are expected to review the lawsuit in May -- did not indicate support for the plaintiffs or the administration. Instead, AHIP wrote that the brief "focuses solely on the economic consequences that would inevitably occur if the personal coverage requirement is removed from the law while the major insurance market reforms remain" (CQ HealthBeat, 3/8).
The brief also stated that the overhaul's "guarantee issue and adjusted community rating requirements and the prohibition on pre-existing condition exclusions would not be economically and actuarially sound if the individual mandate were struck down" ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/8).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.