Wrangling Begins in Health Care Reform Lawsuit

By Staff Report

Dec. 17, 2010

In all, 20 states, 47 interest groups and more than 70 legislators have filed briefs with the federal district court arguing myriad positions in the case.

Opponents and supporters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act squared off in a Pensacola, Florida, courtroom Dec. 16, arguing over whether Congress has the power to mandate private individuals to buy health insurance and to force states to expand their Medicaid programs.

Both provisions are critical to the reform law’s goal of expanding insurance coverage to 32 million Americans, but critics say Democrats in power overstepped their constitutional powers in trying to achieve it. In all, 20 states, 47 interest groups and more than 70 legislators have filed briefs with the federal district court arguing myriad positions in the case.

“The statute inflicts more damage on the Constitution than any other statute in American history. It threatens to warp the very key architectural elements of our constitutional system,” including undermining individual liberty and state sovereignty, said Baker Hostetler attorney David Rivkin.

Rivkin argued on behalf of Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and the 19 other states asking U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson to strike down the reform law. Meanwhile, Ron Pollack attended the hearing as executive director of Families USA, which filed a brief in the case.

“When you heard the attorneys general from Florida and Texas, they kept on using the words ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty,’ ” Pollack said in a conference call. “There is a converse to that. There is also the freedom and liberty of people who did exercise their personal responsibility [to have insurance] and are having other people’s health care bill foisted upon them.”

In a separate case on Dec. 13, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson of Richmond, Virginia, ruled that the insurance mandate is unconstitutional, contradicting two previous judicial decisions in other federal district courts. Experts say the case will likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Filed by Joe Carlson of Modern Healthcare, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail


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