Feds say states can't challenge part of health care reform

John O'Brien Aug. 30, 2010, 12:00pm

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is one of the state officials challenging health care reform.

PENSACOLA, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - The federal government says the mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance included in health care reform is constitutional and states may not challenge it.

That argument came in support of the feds' motion to dismiss a lawsuit in which 21 states are challenging the reform package signed into law in March. The states wrote earlier this month in a response to the federal government's motion to dismiss that the mandate is an "unprecedented intrusion" on the freedoms of states and their citizens.

The mandate forces individuals to buy health insurance or face a $695 annual penalty and goes into effect in 2014.

"Defendants' opening brief explained how plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate actual or imminent injury from a provision that will not go into effect for several years," the federal government wrote Friday.

"As neither side can know the future, Plaintiffs' response seeks to shift to Defendants the burden of proof."

The states, as well as the National Federation of Independent Business, say it is wrong to penalize an individual for not participating in a marketplace.

The feds say the Anti-Injunction Act bars the challenge even if the court determines the mandate is a tax.

"Congress' conclusion that the minimum coverage requirement is integral to the functioning of the health insurance markets rests on legislative judgments that command great deference," they say.

"Congress found that, before (health care reform), uninsured individuals, as a class, shifted billions of dollars of health care costs each year to other participants in the health care market including providers, insurers, governments and, ultimately, their fellow citizens."

The feds also respond to the language used in the states' response to the motion to dismiss. The states said the provisions in the reform package "transform our nation beyond recognition" and "arm Congress with unbridled top-down control over virtually every aspect of persons' lives."

The feds say such phrasing "signal(s) the political rather than legal nature of Plaintiffs' claims."

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

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