Fourteen States File Lawsuits Against Health Care Law

by Heather Mayer, DOTmed News Reporter | March 29, 2010
Attorney General Tom Corbett
of Pennsylvania
is filing a lawsuit with
12 other states against
the health care law
The first of two lawsuits against the new health care reform bill came just seven minutes after President Obama signed the 2,400-page document last Tuesday.

Headed by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a lawsuit has been filed in conjunction with 12 other attorneys general from Pennsylvania, Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Washington. Virginia filed its own lawsuit.

"This law represents an unprecedented encroachment on the liberty of the American people," McCollum said in a statement.

The Florida attorney general began researching the mandate back in December when it became apparent it would be part of the bill. In January, he sent Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Speaker Nancy Pelosi a memo listing the bill's constitutional issues, says Sandi Copes, the communications director for the Florida attorney general's office.

The lawsuit was written several days before the bill signing, says Copes.

All of the attorneys general on this lawsuit are Republican except for Louisiana's Democratic Attorney General James Caldwell. According to The Associated Press, Caldwell signed on because Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, "asked him to, and he felt the effort had merit."

The suits are based on the claim that the health care reform bill is unconstitutional because it forces citizens to purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty. The tax will be fully in place in 2016, fining non-compliant citizens $695 a year or 2.5 percent of income - whichever is higher.

The bill, which will require adults to purchase health insurance by 2014, is set to expand coverage to 32 million people by 2019.

"Congress does not have the constitutional authority to enact this requirement," Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, who signed onto the lawsuit, said in a statement. "This law threatens every citizen's individual liberties."

Opponents of the bill and those filing the lawsuit argue along multiple lines, says Keith Bybee, a professor at the Syracuse University College of Law. Several states have passed laws, which would take effect in 2014, stating they will not participate in the exchange. Bybee doesn't think this will hold up because the Supremacy Clause states that federal law overrules any conflicting state laws.

Another main argument is Constitution-based, and it takes several avenues. The attorneys general argue that the bill exceeds Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce; that the federal government can induce but not compel citizens to purchase insurance; and that the anti-commandeering doctrine prohibits the federal government from forcing the states to do something on the federal government's behalf.