Six more challenge health care reform

John O'Brien Jan. 19, 2011, 12:56pm


PENSACOLA, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - Six more states have joined the legal challenge against federal health care reform, meaning that half of the states in the nation now oppose the law.

Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Ohio, Wisconsin and Wyoming attached their names to an amended complaint submitted Tuesday in the lawsuit, which was filed in March after President Barack Obama signed the reform package into law. Twenty-six states are now represented in the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Virginia has been granted summary judgment in its own lawsuit, and Missouri may soon be joining the multistate suit or filing one of its own.

The states are challenging a $695 annual penalty that will be imposed on individuals who do not purchase health insurance. Virginia, in a separate lawsuit, is defending a state law that says none of its residents can be penalized for not purchasing health insurance.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson is expected to rule soon on the multistate lawsuit. He heard summary judgment arguments in December.

"The Act's 'Individual Mandate' - a requirement that virtually all Americans obtain and maintain congressionally approved health care insurance coverage for themselves and their families - is unconstitutional," the states' motion says.

"Congress' power under the Commerce Clause is not infinite. At its furthest reach, the commerce power permits federal regulation of activities having a substantial relation to interstate commerce. The commerce power does not allow Congress to compel inactive individuals to engage in economic activity against their will."

The federal government argues that Congress acted within its authority and that the mandate is vital to the success of the overall package.

"Even as to the uninsured, plaintiffs concede that Congress may require that they, too, obtain insurance at the point of procuring health care services, and quibble only that 'formalism' prevents the government from requiring insurance in advance of its use, thus claiming that Congress must turn a blind eye to the fact that in the aggregate, virtually everyone will at some point obtain medical services," the feds' motion says.

"This both misses the point of insurance - which is precisely to pay to cover services in advance of receiving them - and challenges the constitutionality of a broad federal statute based on its application to a subset of those who are regulated."

Four of the six states that joined the lawsuit Tuesday did so through their respective attorneys general - Ohio's Mike DeWine, Kansas' Derek Schmidt, Wisconsin's J.B. Van Hollen and Maine's William Schneider. Iowa and Wyoming joined through their respective governors.

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