Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Wyoming and Maine won permission to join a Florida lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health-care reform legislation.
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Florida, yesterday granted the states’ motion for permission to be added to the lawsuit filed last year by then-Florida Attorney General Bill McCollom, bringing the total of plaintiff states to 26.
“The addition of six new states to our bipartisan legal challenge reflects broad, nationwide concern about the constitutionality of this sweeping and unprecedented federal legislation,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a press statement.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by Obama on March 23, bars insurers from denying coverage to people who are sick and from imposing lifetime limits on costs.
It also requires all citizens to obtain coverage or face a tax penalty. That individual mandate and expansions of Medicaid and employer-based coverage would extend health coverage to 32 million more people by 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Mandatory coverage would start in 2014. The government has called the minimum-coverage provision the linchpin of the reform effort because it would push younger and healthier people into the insurance pool.
Opponents told Vinson in a Dec. 16 court appearance that expansion of Medicaid -- the joint state and federal program to provide health care to the indigent -- would overwhelm state budgets.
They also argued that the mandatory coverage provision exceeds the legislative authority of the U.S. Congress to regulate interstate commerce by attempting to control the inaction of the uninsured.
“The uninsured are not inactive,” government lawyer Ian Gershengorn countered at the same hearing. “This is not a situation of innocent bystanders standing to the side,” he said, adding that those who weren’t purchasing insurance were making the economic decision to pay later or shift the cost.
The $2.5 trillion national health-care market is unlike the market for anything else, said the attorney for the U.S. government.
The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday voted 245-189 in favor of repealing the measure. All of the chamber’s Republicans voted for the reversal as did three Democrats.
“Repeal means keeping a promise,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a speech on the House floor. “This is what we said we would do,” said the Ohio congressman. His party is planning to draft a replacement health-care measure.
Democrats, who control the Senate, say they will block the repeal effort, and that in any case, Obama would veto any such measure that reached his desk.
U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson in Richmond, Virginia, ruled Dec. 13 that requiring people under 65 obtain coverage or pay a cash penalty was unconstitutional. The federal government is appealing that decision.
Also joining in the Florida suit are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Washington.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, in a Jan. 7 press statement, said his state will file an independent suit to challenge the law.
The Florida case is State of Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 10-cv-00091, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida (Pensacola).