KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Alaska Is 20th State To Join Health Reform Lawsuit; Okla. And La. Consider Signing On

Alaska Republican Gov. Sean Parnell has said he will make Alaska the 20th state to join a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new health reform law, The Anchorage Daily News/McClatchy report. "The Constitution gives Congress the authority to regulate interstate commerce. Alaska and the other states are arguing the mandate that individuals purchase insurance is unprecedented under the commerce clause, because uninsured individuals aren't participating in commerce. Many constitutional law experts say that the health insurance mandate falls within the constitutional purview of Congress." There are an estimated 100,000 uninsured in Alaska (Bolstad, 4/21).

The Alaska Journal of Commerce: Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan "prepared a 49-page analysis for Parnell analyzing the legislation requirements, Supreme Court case law regarding the Constitution's commerce clause and reports on precedent for an individual mandate by the Congressional Budget Office and the Congressional Research Service. … Parnell said that after consulting with the Florida AG, the cost to Alaska for joining in the lawsuit will be about $5,000. Florida will file an amended complaint in May, the federal government will file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in June and the states will file a motion for summary judgment [asking the court to rule in their favor with no facts in dispute] that could be heard by the fall" (Jensen, 4/20). 

CongressDaily/Reuters: Oklahoma lawmakers are also considering filing a separate lawsuit blocking implementation of the law. "State House Speaker Chris Benge and State Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, both Republicans, said they plan to sue Congress, the president and HHS Secretary Sebelius to prevent provisions of the new law from taking effect. Their announcement follows the refusal this month of Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson to join a multistate lawsuit led by Florida's attorney general. Edmondson, a Democrat, said he would join the lawsuit if required by legislative action" (4/21).

In Florida, some lawmakers are pushing an amendment to the state constitution that would allow Florida to opt-out of the reform law, Health News Florida reports. "A House panel Monday resurrected a proposal that, in part, would prevent Floridians from being forced by law to 'participate in any health care system.' Republican lawmakers want voters to approve the proposal in November and enshrine it in the Florida Constitution. The measure, which is now ready to go to the full House, comes about a month after the Democratic-controlled Congress passed a health-reform law that eventually will require people to buy health insurance or face financial penalties. That has touched off efforts by Republicans in Tallahassee and other state capitals to fight the law" (Saunders, 4/20).

The Associated Press/The New York Times: A Louisiana House panel attempt to "nullify the federal health care overhaul in Louisiana, by declaring no one can be mandated to pay a penalty if they don't have insurance, edged out of the House Insurance Committee on a 5-4 vote Tuesday. … Opponents said Louisiana already is fighting the federal health legislation in court and doesn't need [the sponsor's] bill. Rep. Chris Roy, D-Alexandria, said the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately will decide whether the congressional health overhaul is legal" (4/20).

Des Moines Register: In Iowa, in the meantime, former New York Gov. George Pataki told a group gathered that the law is unconstitutional. "Pataki is chairman of Revere America, a national campaign to gather signatures of people who want to repeal and replace this year's health care reform law. The name of the group reflects Paul Revere's efforts 235 years ago to warn Americans that their freedom was in danger. The group will use the signatures partly as a way to gain support for Republican candidates in November elections. … Pataki said a replacement law should allow people to purchase health insurance across state lines and limit medical malpractice lawsuits" (Clayworth, 4/21).

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