Democratic AGs support federal health care reform

Jessica M. Karmasek Jan. 24, 2011, 12:43pm


CINCINNATI (Legal Newsline) - Nine states filed a friend-of-the-court brief last week in support of President Barack Obama's federal health care reform act.

In their 27-page amicus brief filed Friday, the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Oregon, New York and Vermont argue that without the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, state-level health care costs "will rise dramatically" in the next 10 years.

The attorneys general, in their filing, call the act "a national solution" that will help them fulfill their duty to protect and promote the health and welfare of their citizens.

"The law strikes an appropriate balance between national requirements that promote the goal of expanding access to health care in a cost-effective manner and state flexibility in designing programs to achieve that goal," they wrote.

The attorneys general -- all Democrats -- filed their brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati.

The lawsuit, Thomas More Law Center v. Barack Obama, is different than the multistate suit filed against the Obama administration in Florida.

The amici, in this suit, are urging an appeals court to affirm the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, which upheld the individual mandate requirement. Under the mandate, a $695 annual penalty will be imposed on those who do not purchase health insurance.

Iowa's attorney general, Tom Miller, said in a statement last week that the act is, indeed, constitutional.

"Congress, under the powers granted to it under the Commerce Clause, has the full authority to enact legislation like the (Affordable Care Act) that has an enormous effect on interstate commerce," he said.

In contrast, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad last week signed on in support of the Florida lawsuit challenging the health care reform act.

Miller, in a statement, said the control and decision-making concerning litigation involving the state "is within the authority of the Attorney General, not the Governor."

He added, "However, in this unusual set of circumstances, given what is at stake for the public, Gov. Branstad should have the ability to express his viewpoint as governor."

Branstad's action now puts Iowa in the postition of both supporting and opposing the health care law.

In addition to Iowa, five other states have attached their names to an amended complaint submitted Tuesday in the lawsuit against the federal government. Kansas, Maine, Ohio, Wisconsin and Wyoming also joined the action. Now, a total of 26 states are represented in the suit.

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, as Oklahoma did on Friday.

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

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

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