Feds file first win in states' health care reform challenge

John O'Brien Oct. 12, 2010, 12:47pm

PENSACOLA, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - The federal government is drawing attention to its first win in the legal war over health care reform.

The government filed the Thursday decision of Michigan federal judge George Caram Steeh -- who sided with the feds in a challenge brought by the Thomas More Law Center and four uninsured Michigan residents -- in the lawsuit brought by 20 states and a small businesses group.

The Thomas More Law Center is a Christian public interest firm, and the four individuals argued that the money they will have to pay as a penalty for being uninsured could be used to fund abortions.

The lawsuit did make a similar argument to the states', which says the $695 penalty that uninsured individuals will be forced to pay yearly is unconstitutional. The states say the federal government should not be able to force individuals to take part in a market.

"Far from 'inactivity,' by choosing to forgo insurance plaintiffs are making an economic decision to try to pay for health care services later, out of pocket, rather than now through the purchase of insurance, collectively shifting billions of dollars, $43 billion in 2008, onto other market participants...." Steeh wrote.

"(P)laintiffs in this case are participants in the health care services market. They are not outside the market. While plaintiffs describe the Commerce Clause power as reaching economic activity, the government's characterization of the Commerce Clause reaching economic decisions is more accurate."

The decision was filed as a notice of supplemental authority.

A decision on the feds' motion to dismiss the states' lawsuit is expected this week. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson heard oral arguments last month.

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

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