Schedule set in Va. health care challenge

John O'Brien Jun. 4, 2010, 1:54pm


RICHMOND, Va. (Legal Newsline) - A federal judge has scheduled oral arguments in Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's challenge of health care reform.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson entered an order Thursday that sets arguments regarding the federal government's motion to dismiss on July 1. That motion was filed May 24 and calls the disputed mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance a "linchpin" of the reform package.

Individuals face an annual penalty of $695 if they do not have health insurance.

"Based on extensive hearings and expert evidence, Congress concluded that requiring the financially able to purchase health insurance would spread risks across a larger pool, which (as with all insurance) would allow insurers to charge less for coverage..." the motion to dismiss says.

"Congress determined that, without the minimum coverage provision, the reforms in
the Act, such as the ban on denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, would not work, as they would amplify existing incentives for individuals to 'wait to purchase health insurance until they needed care,' which in turn would shift even greater costs onto third parties."

Cuccinelli filed his lawsuit soon after President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law in March. It is separate from a 20-state suit filed in Florida federal court in that it claims Virginia has passed a law that prevents the bill's individual health care mandate.

"With this law, the federal government will force citizens to buy health insurance, claiming it has the authority to do so because of its power to regulate interstate commerce," Cuccinelli said.

"We contend that if a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person - by definition - is not engaging in commerce, and therefore, is not subject to a federal mandate."

Oral arguments regarding motions for summary judgment will be held Oct. 18, and the two sides were instructed to create their own briefing schedule.

Amicus briefs are due 14 days before arguments on the motion they discuss.

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