Feds move to dismiss health care challenge

John O'Brien Jun. 21, 2010, 2:37pm


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - The federal government filed its motion to dismiss the lawsuit challenging federal health care reform last week.

The motion, filed Wednesday, says the arguments made by 20 states and a business group "runs afoul" of U.S. Supreme Court precedent, and that the plaintiffs have no standing to challenge the law.

President Barack Obama signed the health care reform package into law in March.

The states, led by a group of mainly Republican state attorneys general, say it is wrong to force an individual to purchase health insurance or face a $695 annual penalty.

"The provision will not take effect until 2014, and it is entirely speculative whether the individual plaintiffs will be injured," the motion says, adding the states do not have standing to challenge the mandate.

"The minimum coverage provision is well within Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause."

The motion also says the mandate is needed because it will keep costs for health providers down.

"Congress determined that, without the minimum coverage provision, the reforms in the (Patient Protection and Affordable Care 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 case,' shifting even greater costs onto third parties," the motion says.

States also complained that the ACA will result in more individuals being eligible for Medicaid, increasing the program's costs to the states. States can opt out of Medicaid, but they add that the program is too large to make that a reasonable option.

"The (act) is designed to reduce the number of uninsured Americans and control such escalating costs," the motion says. "It will do so through market reforms and tax incentives, in addition to the expansion of eligibility for Medicaid.

"The federal government will pay 100 percent of the increased Medicaid benefits through 2016, declining gradually to 90 percent by 2020 and beyond. Even so, as with every other prior expansion of Medicaid eligibility requirements, states can opt out of the program."

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has a separate challenge in Virginia federal court. He says the mandate is in contrast to a recently passed state law.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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