U.S. Senators, Economists Win Right to Argue Health Care Suit

House Republican Leader John Boehner
House Republican leader John Boehner. Photographer: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Eight U.S. senators, along with Representative John Boehner and 35 economists, won the right to submit their arguments in a lawsuit by 20 states seeking to undo the Obama administration’s health-care overhaul.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola yesterday granted requests by the eight Republican members of Congress and the economists to offer their views on the administration’s bid to have the suit thrown out.

Nineteen states have joined lawsuit brought by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who claims the health-care statute is overbroad and unconstitutional. The suit was filed March 23, the same day President Barack Obama signed the legislation.

The senators said in their filing that they are “in the best position to underscore where Congress legislates without authority,” as the states allege was done in mandating individuals must obtain health care coverage.

The eight senators, including Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, John Cornyn of Texas and Utah’s Orrin Hatch, yesterday backed the states’ contention the act is unconstitutional.

The group of economists includes three Nobel laureates.

“Everyone gets sick, suffers an injury at some point in their life or must address the vicissitudes of aging and seek medical care,” Nobel Prize-winning economists Kenneth Arrow, George Akerlof, Eric Maskin and their colleagues told the court.

‘Unpredictable Times’

“Those medical costs typically arise at unpredictable times and, when they occur, often exceed the ability to pay of all but the very wealthiest of Americans,” they said in their filing.

The states, in court papers, claim the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA, unlawfully forces individuals to buy health insurance and compels states to participate in a “greatly expanded and fundamentally transformed Medicaid program.”

The U.S. has asked Vinson to toss the case, arguing it was filed prematurely because the bulk of the act doesn’t take effect until 2014. The administration has also said the states failed to identify any injury sustained by them or by individuals compelled to obtain coverage.

Vinson has scheduled oral argument for Dec. 16.

Boehner, an Ohio Republican who is slated to be speaker of the House of Representatives when the new Republican majority is seated in January, said in his filing that he could offer the court perspective on “the negative effects,” the administration’s position would have on Congressional legislative practices.

‘Incentives for Congress’

The Justice Department’s constitutional interpretation “would create incentives for Congress to pass ill-conceived or unrealistic statutes,” Boehner said.

Joining Florida in its lawsuit are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington.

A spokeswoman for McCollum, Sandi Copes, said the attorney general will “wait to see whether the court grants these motions.”

A parallel challenge to the legislation, filed by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, is pending in federal court in Richmond.

The Florida case is State of Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 3:10-cv-00091, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida (Pensacola).

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