KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

States Begin Legal Challenge To New Health Law But Experts Raise Doubts About Their Chances

The Boston Globe: "Attorneys general from 13 states sued the federal government yesterday, arguing the landmark health care overhaul is unconstitutional just seven minutes after President Obama signed it into law. The lawsuit was filed in Pensacola after the Democratic president signed the 10-year, $938 billion bill the House passed Sunday night. ... Legal specialists say it has little chance of succeeding because, under the Constitution, federal laws trump state laws. ... The lawsuit contends that the bill violates the 10th Amendment ... by forcing the states to carry out its provisions but not reimbursing them for the costs(3/24).

The Austin American-Statesman: "Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott signed on to a lawsuit to try to stop the new law. ... Some states are considering separate lawsuits - Virginia filed its own Tuesday - and still others may join the multistate suit. Abbott's act of signing on to the lawsuit drew a flurry of statements both condemning and applauding the effort. It also raised questions among constitutional scholars who said the lawsuit had little chance of reversing the new law" (Eaton, 3/23).

The Seattle Times reports that Washington State also joined in the group effort (3/23). 

PolitiFact Florida examines claims by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, one of the those who has filed suit against the federal health overhaul. He says the state's cost for the Medicaid expansion will be $1.6 billion a year or more. "McCollum is correct that the new law will cost the state money, but much of that cost will be shouldered by the federal government. The federal government plans to pick up 100 percent of the tab for the expansion of Medicaid for the first few years, but after that, the percentage declines. ... McCollum said during his press conference announcing the lawsuit that the $1.6 billion was based on modeling developed by Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration. But the agency based that analysis on older versions of the legislation. ... [A] newer report calculated that Florida's share of increased costs would range between $149 million in 2014 and $1.1 billion in 2019, significantly less than what McCollum said" (3/22).

The Associated Press/Richmond Times Dispatch: "Virginia made good on its promise to sue the federal government. ... State Solicitor General E. Duncan Getchell Jr. and Deputy Attorney General Wesley G. Russell Jr. filed Virginia's complaint in U.S. District Court in Richmond on behalf of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Virginia is challenging the constitutionality of the new law, primarily based on the argument that the 'commerce clause' of the U.S. Constitution cannot be used by Congress to mandate that individuals purchase health insurance as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (Nolan, 3/24).

NPR interviews Ken Cuccinelli, attorney general of Virginia, about the state lawsuit (Siegel, 3/22).

McClatchy: "Several noted law professors said that there are significant legal hurdles in establishing the states' standing to challenge the health-care law and in persuading federal judges that it violates the Constitution. Congress is empowered by the Constitution to regulate interstate commerce. Some opponents of the new law argue that Congress's mandate that individuals must purchase insurance from private vendors is unprecedented, because uninsured individuals aren't participating in commerce. Many constitutional law experts, however, said that the health insurance mandate is clearly within Congress' reach under the Constitution" (Rosen, 3/23).

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