KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Suit Against Health Law Will Move To Trial After Florida Judge’s Ruling

"In a foreboding ruling for the Obama administration, a federal judge in Florida decreed Thursday that a legal challenge to the new health care law by officials from 20 states could move forward ...," The New York Times reports: "'At this stage in the litigation, this is not even a close call,' wrote Judge Roger Vinson of Federal District Court in Pensacola, Fla., before asserting that the insurance mandate was an unprecedented exercise of Congressional authority. 'Of course, to say that something is 'novel' and 'unprecedented' does not necessarily mean that it is 'unconstitutional' and 'improper,' Judge Vinson continued."

"The Florida case is one of more than 15 legal challenges to the health care law that are aiming for an ultimate hearing before the United States Supreme Court" The full hearing is scheduled for Dec. 16 (Sack, 10/14).

The Wall Street Journal: The states say "that requiring people to carry insurance or pay a fine exceeds Congress's powers under the Constitution to regulate economic activity, because they say the decision to go without insurance isn't an activity. ... The Obama administration says that nearly all Americans get medical care through a doctor or hospital, and that requiring them to carry insurance simply regulates how they pay for services they will inevitably demand when they get sick."

"The plaintiffs argue that the entire law should be invalidated. The administration counters that many other pieces of the legislation could stand without the individual mandate, including the expansion of Medicaid. ... Many legal scholars believe the administration is likely to win the core case, but they don't rule out a plaintiffs' victory" (Adamy, 10/15).

The Hill: "Other federal judges have already issued divergent rulings. ... In August, a judge in California threw out a suit against the individual mandate saying the plaintiffs had no standing to sue since the requirement doesn't start until 2014. That case has been appealed. ... Another lawsuit was dismissed in Maryland, and its appeal rejected. ... And this past Thursday, a federal district judge in Michigan upheld the mandate's constitutionality in a separate lawsuit" (Pecquet, 10/14).

The Los Angeles Times: The Florida lawsuit, led by that state's attorney general, Republican Bill McCollum, is the most broad-based challenge to the new law. Nineteen states have joined the suit: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington. ...Vinson dismissed four less fundamental complaints made by the states, including all but one in which the states argued that the healthcare law infringes on their sovereignty. [He] concluded that more litigation may be needed to settle the states' claim that the healthcare overhaul unlawfully forces them to expand their Medicaid insurance programs for the poor" (Levey, 10/14).

The Washington Post: While states can theoretically choose not to spend extra money on Medicaid to expand coverage, "the states contend that because doing that would force them to give up a huge cash infusion from the federal government and leave millions of their poorest citizens without insurance, they effectively have no choice" (Aizenman, 10/15).

Politico: "The White House downplayed the ruling Thursday." Stephanie Cutter, an assistant to the president for special projects, wrote on the White House blog: "This is nothing new. We saw this with the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act – constitutional challenges were brought to all three of these monumental pieces of legislation, and all of those challenges failed. So too will the challenge to health reform" (Haberkorn, 10/15).


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