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Five States Join the Health Care Lawsuit

by Heather Mayer, DOTmed News Reporter | April 13, 2010
Judicial opposition mounts
to health care reform
Five additional states have joined the lawsuit against the health care reform law, which was filed by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum just seven minutes after President Obama signed the bill last month. (See DM 12182.)

Attorneys general from Arizona, Indiana, North Dakota and governors from Mississippi and Nevada have added their support to a legal effort by attorneys general from Pennsylvania, Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Washington.

There are now 18 states on the Florida lawsuit; Virginia has filed its own lawsuit due to specific state laws regarding health insurance.
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The suit is 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, which will be fully in place in 2016. The tax penalty will be $695 a year or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is greater.

Govs. Jim Gibbons from Nevada and Haley Barbour from Mississippi sidestepped their attorneys general, who refused to join the lawsuit.

"I was disappointed that the attorney general of Nevada refused to fight for the constitutional rights of Nevada citizens," Gibbons said in a statement. "But I refuse to surrender on this issue."

In a statement issued to DOTmed News, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto's office said its analysis of the health care law, which was "based on a careful study of relevant legal principles and required a review of existing case law to determine if a lawsuit would have a credible basis for success...found no legal basis for such a lawsuit at this time."

Attorney General Jim Hood of Mississippi rejected the lawsuit on a similar basis, stating in a letter to the governor that his office has "found no authority to support a suit...Our decisions are made on the dry law, not economical or political expediency."

Both attorneys general also pledge to continue monitoring the litigation of this case, joining if they see it legally fit.

Proponents of the health care law point out many precedents that would support the legislation, largely the Commerce Clause, which gives Congress very broad power to regulate commerce.

"There are decades of precedents in which courts and the Supreme Court allowed Congress to use the powers of tax and spending broadly, so long as it's pursuant of general welfare," Keith Bybee, a professor at Syracuse University College of Law, told DOTmed News last month.

A hearing is set for Wednesday at the Federal Courthouse in Pensacola, Fla.