U.S. SC won't hear Va. AG's health care challenge yet

John O'Brien Apr. 25, 2011, 11:00am


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Supreme Court has not decided to speed up the lawsuit challenging federal health care reform filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Cuccinelli had argued that the issue was of great national importance and resolving it quickly was ideal, but the U.S. Supreme Court did not agree. Now it will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where the federal government is appealing a district judge's decision to grant Cuccinelli summary judgment.

Arguments will be made May 10 before the Fourth Circuit, and its ruling will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Cuccinelli said he wasn't surprised with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to skip the Fourth Circuit.

"We asked the U.S. Supreme Court for expedited review of our lawsuit because Virginia and other states are already spending huge sums to implement their portions of the health care act, businesses are already making decisions about whether to cut or keep employee health plans, and citizens are in limbo until the Supreme Court rules," Cuccinelli said.

"Asking the court to expedite our lawsuit was about removing this crippling and costly uncertainty as quickly as possible. We were gratified that both Republicans and Democrats in Virginia supported the effort to expedite."

Cuccinelli's lawsuit claims a portion of the reform package that requires individuals to pay a yearly $695 penalty if they do not purchase health insurance is unconstitutional.

A federal judge sided with 26 states in a similar lawsuit in Florida last month.

Because the mandate is too integral a part to be separated, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson voided the entire legislation in the multistate lawsuit. He called it "a difficult decision to reach."

"If Congress intends to implement health care reform -- and there would appear to be widespread agreement across the political spectrum that reform is needed -- it should do a comprehensive examination of the Act and make a legislative determination as to which of its hundreds of provisions and sections will work as intended without the individual mandate, and which will not," Vinson wrote.

"It is Congress that should consider and decide these quintessentially legislative questions, and not the courts."

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

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