Business group files brief in ObamaCare lawsuit

By John O'Brien | Jan 7, 2012


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - A business organization challenging President Barack Obama's health care reform submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court Friday that calls for the entire package to be struck.

The National Federation of Independent Business says the mandate contained in the legislation is too integral to its overall effect, and if it is ruled unconstitutional then the entire law will fail. The NFIB is a co-plaintiff in the multistate challenge of the law.

"The health-care law was intended to lower costs and expand coverage to more Americans," said Karen Harned, director of the NFIB's Small Business Legal Center.

"Unfortunately, a tortured and politically-charged legislative process resulted in a fragile bill, achieved only through special deals and politicking, and eventually cumulating in what is essentially a subsidy to insurers-the mandate that all Americans purchase health insurance or pay a penalty."

The law's individual mandate requiring all Americans purchase health insurance or face a $695 penalty every year is at issue. Some federal appeals courts ruled it is constitutional, while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that it is not.

That case was brought by the NFIB and 14 states in March 2010 after Obama signed the bill into law. Twelve states later joined the cause.

The federal government also filed a brief Friday, defending the law.

Out of three appeals made to the U.S. Supreme Court, it decided only to hear the 26-state case.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled for the states earlier this year but did not find that the mandate was essential to the entire law. A district court judge in Florida had. Both agreed that the mandate was regulating economic inactivity.

The Fourth Circuit ruled in Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's case that he did not have standing to challenge the law on behalf of the state of Virginia because the State wouldn't be affected by the mandate. Only individual Virginians would be, the court said in overturning a district judge's ruling.

The Sixth Circuit sided with the federal government in a 2-1 decision, writing that Congress could conclude that the actions of the self-insured substantially affect insterstate commerce.

The Third Circuit ruled in August that a group of New Jersey doctors did not have standing to challenge the law. The doctors could not allege an "actual" injury, the court ruled.

The D.C. Circuit upheld the mandate earlier this month, ruling, "The right to be free from federal regulation is not absolute."

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

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