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26 States Go to U.S. Supreme Court to Challenge Federal Health Care Law

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September 28, 2011 | 2,995 views | 1 comment

AUSTIN -- Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and officials from 25 other states today asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of the Obama Administration’s unprecedented and overreaching healthcare law.

In a petition for writ of certiorari filed this morning, the States explain that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional because it imposes coercive new spending mandates on the States and unlawfully interferes with individual Americans’ constitutionally protected freedoms by forcing them to purchase health insurance. Citing substantial implementation costs already burdening the States, the petition urges the Supreme Court to resolve the significant constitutional questions posed by the ACA as expeditiously as possible.

"As three federal district court judges have found, and as the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in this very case, the federal government exceeded the constitutional limits of its authority by requiring all Americans to buy government-approved health insurance,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Given the substantial implementation costs associated with this 2,700-page law--and the unconstitutional mandate that it will impose on all Americans--we are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve our constitutional challenge as quickly as possible. With our system of limited government and the rights guaranteed the States under the Tenth Amendment imperiled by the Obama Administration’s unprecedented health care law, the stakes could not be higher.”

The petition filed today with the Supreme Court explains that the ACA violates the U.S. Constitution by imposing unprecedented new mandates on both individuals and states: “The Act is without precedent both in its coercive impositions on the States and in its effort to force individuals to engage in commerce so that the federal government may regulate them. [T]he Act raise[s] constitutional issues that go to the heart of our system of limited government and the Constitution’s division of authority between the federal government and the States.”

Both the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit have already agreed with the States’ legal position that the ACA’s individual mandate violates the Constitution. The district court ruled that Congress, through the individual mandate, cannot “penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce,” saying that if this is allowed, “...Congress could do almost anything it wanted.” Similarly, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals called the individual mandate “an unprecedented exercise of congressional power,” and correctly struck down the requirement after finding that it “exceeds Congress’ enumerated commerce power.”

In addition to challenging the individual mandate, the States’ petition asks the Supreme Court to review their challenge to the ACA’s substantial--and unlawful--expansion of the joint state-federal Medicaid program. According to the States’ petition, the Medicaid expansion mandated by the ACA unlawfully coerces the States by mandating increased state spending without providing any practical mechanism for states to opt out of the program. As the States’ petition explains, the ACA’s Medicaid provisions reflect an aggressive attempt to circumvent the limits that the U.S. Constitution places on congressional power by relying upon Congress’ authority to spend taxpayer dollars that ultimately come from the states: “If Congress can condition federal mandates on the continued availability of vast sums of taxpayer money that States previously accepted based on an earlier set of conditions, then anything that Congress is denied the power to do directly can be accomplished indirectly via the spending power. That cannot be correct.”

Unlike other Medicaid expansions previously enacted by Congress, the ACA forces states to either abandon Medicaid altogether, or submit to the most aggressive and expensive expansion of the program in history. The States argue: “In the past, when Congress sought to expand Medicaid coverage, it offered additional funding to States that agreed to additional obligations, without threatening existing funding of States that did not . . . . The ACA employs a dramatically different approach. Rather than offer increased funding to States willing and able to increase eligibility and coverage, Congress made the ACA’s substantial expansions to Medicaid a mandatory condition of continued participation.”

As a result, the States must either agree to the federal government’s demands and dramatically increase their Medicaid spending--or withdraw from Medicaid altogether--leaving their taxpayers to fund other states’ Medicaid programs. Accordingly, as the States’ petition explains, “the ‘option’ of declining federal funds and paying for medical care for the indigent through new taxes on in-state taxpayers already funding that care in the other 49 states is illusory.”

The ACA’s mandated Medicaid expansion will also have a damaging effect on state budgets, in Texas and across the country. In Fiscal Year 2009, Texas spent 25 percent of its state budget -- or $24.5 billion -- on Medicaid. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission estimates that the massive Medicaid expansion imposed by the ACA will burden the State of Texas an additional $27 billion in spending over the first ten years of its implementation. In light of the costs imposed upon the States by the Medicaid expansion, their petition urges the Supreme Court to review their legal challenge as expeditiously as possible: “The States are also struggling to figure out how to afford the substantial new costs--costs for which the ACA offers no increased federal funding and costs that manifestly give the States standing to object to the mandate--of extending Medicaid coverage to millions of currently eligible but unrolled individuals who will be forced to enroll to comply with the mandate.”

The States’ petition also asks the Supreme Court to address a third constitutional problem with the ACA--the federal government’s intrusion upon state sovereignty by improperly imposing federally mandated coverage requirements on state-sponsored insurance plans. As employers, States will be forced to provide federally-approved health insurance coverage to their employees, which contravenes the federalist system set forth in the U.S. Constitution. The States’ petition explains why the ACA’s attempt to impose mandates on state employee insurance plans violates the Constitution: “...States are treated no differently from any other employer. Those provisions dramatically interfere with state sovereignty and violate the Tenth Amendment.”

The bipartisan 26-state coalition currently includes Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Washington, Colorado, Michigan, Utah, Alabama, South Dakota, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Alaska, Iowa, Ohio, Kansas, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Maine. The states are joined in this lawsuit by the National Federation of Independent Business, and individual plaintiffs Mary Brown and Kaj Ahlburg.

The multistate lawsuit was filed shortly after President Barack Obama signed the bill into law. The legal action specifically challenges the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and names the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor as defendants because those federal agencies are charged with implementing the Act’s constitutionally impermissible provisions.
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