KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

States Challenge Health Insurance Coverage Mandate As Leaders Decide On Participation

Attorneys general in 14 states have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of a health insurance coverage mandate in the new federal health law, and more may follow.

The Boston Globe: "A flood of lawsuits from states seeking to block the health care law President Obama signed this week raises sharp questions about the power of the federal government to impose mandates on its citizens, but legal scholars disagree about how the cases will be decided if they are heard by the Supreme Court. Analysts said there is no direct precedent for Congress requiring that individuals purchase a product such as health insurance, although some indirect cases are cited by advocates on both sides."

"Legal scholars on the right contend requiring citizens to obtain health insurance is a case of excessive federal intrusion and should be overturned by the judicial branch, while liberal judicial experts say Washington's power to require that Americans buy insurance is clearly permitted under commerce and taxation provisions in the (C)onstitution." (Kranish, 3/25).

News outlets around the country covered the controversy:

The (Springfield, Mo.) News-Leader reports the Missouri Senate spent hours debating a state constitutional amendment that would "challenge" the mandate. "The amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 25, needs to get past a filibuster in the Senate to go the House, where the Republican majority is poised to place it before voters in November" (Livengood, 3/25).

The (Montgomery County, Texas) Courier reports that local lawmakers support the Texas attorney general Greg Abbott in protesting the health care law: "'I think the attorney general is doing the right thing,' Texas Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, said. 'I applaud him.' Forty-nine Texas senators and representatives signed a letter of support" (Micek, 3/24).

The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call: "A top (Pennsylvania state legislature) House Democrat vows to do 'whatever it takes' - including slashing Attorney General Tom Corbett's budget - to keep Corbett from joining a challenge to the constitutionality of the new federal health care law. 'He must be held accountable,'' Dwight Evans, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said Wednesday. ''He cannot think that he can do whatever he wants with taxpayer money'" (Micek, 3/25).

The Associated Press/Washington Examiner reports that Wyoming won't join the lawsuit, "Gov. Dave Freudenthal said Wednesday. … Freudenthal told reporters at his regular press conference Wednesday he regards most of the lawsuit's claims as political and emphasized that Wyoming will be covered by whatever the U.S. Supreme Court decides. He said it's possible Wyoming may sue over the health care bill later if new information arises" (Neary, 3/24).

The (Fredericksburg, Va.) Free Lance-Star reports that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed legislation Wednesday to "restrict [the federal health bill's] impact on Virginians. … The bills (four of them, although they will become just one law) signed by McDonnell exempt Virginia citizens from the 'individual mandate,' the provision in the federal law that requires individuals to buy health insurance or face a penalty. It passed by wide margins in both houses. Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, had introduced a similar bill, which was incorporated into the final legislation" (Davis, 3/25). 

MSN/The Associated Press reports Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is "butting heads" with Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker who "Wednesday declined Perdue's request to sue over the health care law, arguing the state doesn't have a ... 'viable legal claim.'" Baker, a Democrat, is seeking to unseat Perdue, who is a Republican (3/25).

Los Angeles Times: In the meantime, California is bracing for the impact of the health reform on its budget, which is already strained by the recession. Lawmakers and officials figure the law will cost the state $2 billion to $3 billion per year. "While Democrats in Washington have been rejoicing in victory and Republicans have been predicting Armageddon, California officials have been quietly pondering the numbers. And it isn't necessarily contradictory to both support a national healthcare overhaul and acknowledge that it's likely to be another hit on California's bleeding budget. … On Wednesday [Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger] told reporters that Washington has 'shifted the funding from the federal government and said, "Hey, you state, we want to cut down on our deficit. So you pick up the difference. . . ." And it will cost us $3 billion more'" (Skelton, 3/24).

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