Department of Justice Seeks Dismissal of State Attorney Generals Health Care Reform Lawsuit Challenging Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

PENSACOLA, Fla. - (Mealey's) Oral arguments were heard Sept. 14 in a Florida federal court to determine whether a lawsuit brought by attorneys general challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) should be dismissed (State of Florida, et al. v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, No. 10-91, N.D. Fla., Pensacola Div.).

U.S. Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida said he would issue a ruling by Oct. 14 and indicated that some, but not all, parts of the suit would be dismissed.

The federal government had asked that the entire lawsuit brought by attorneys general and the National Federation of Independent Business be dismissed, saying that the plaintiffs lack standing and that Congress has a constitutional right to regulate health care.

The plaintiffs say that they do have standing and that Congress has exceeded its power in enacting the law.

Major points of contention are whether people should be required to purchase health insurance and whether states should pay additional Medicaid costs not covered by the federal government.

The plaintiffs say the act is an encroachment on the sovereignty of the states and converts "what had been a voluntary federal-state partnership into a compulsory top-down federal program in which the discretion of the Plaintiffs and their sister states is removed, in derogation of the core constitutional principle of federalism upon which this Nation is founded."

The government refutes the plaintiffs' argument that the PPACA would force the plaintiffs to incur expenses not covered by the federal government in violation of the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The government says no case has invalidated a spending condition on that theory because "[a] new constitutional rule of this sort would foreclose change, either by precluding Congress from amending its own statutes or requiring courts to calibrate on some novel scale the permissible scope of each amendment."

After the hearing, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum issued a press release, saying, "The federal health care act exceeds the powers granted to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution and tramples on our Founding Fathers' notion of federalism.  It is an egregious violation of individual liberty and limited government."

"If the federal government is allowed to implement the individual mandate requiring citizens to have health insurance or pay a penalty, there is essentially no limit to what government can force citizens to purchase," McCollum said.

[Editor's Note:  Full coverage will be in the Oct. 6 issue of Mealey's Managed Care Liability Report.  For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]

For more information, e-mail editor Cheryl Keely at cheryl.keely@lexisnexis.com.