Florida and its allies Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the 2010 federal health overhaul, hoping for a speedy decision in the landmark legal fight with the Obama administration.
It was no surprise that Florida, other states and the National Federation of Independent Business filed two petitions asking the Supreme Court to take the case. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi likened lower courts that have ruled in the dispute to a “pass through.”
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“We’ve been seeking to get to the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as possible from day one,” Bondi said during a news conference at the Capitol after the petitions were filed.
The Obama administration also signaled this week it wants justices to determine the constitutionality of the law during their next term, which starts in October.
“There has been no shortage of lawsuits regarding the Affordable Care Act,” Stephanie Cutter, the president’s deputy senior adviser, said Wednesday.” Of course, whenever our nation is undertaking fundamental reform, legal challenges like this are nothing new. Just as challenges to the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act all failed, challenges to health reform are failing as well. The Administration has already prevailed in cases heard in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Unfortunately the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Affordable Care Act’s individual responsibility provision. We strongly disagree with their decision and today, the Obama Administration will ask the Supreme Court to hear this case, so that we can put these challenges to rest and continue moving forward implementing the law to lower the cost of health care and make it more secure for all Americans. We hope the Supreme Court takes up the case and we are confident we will win.”
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this summer ruled that the law’s so-called “individual mandate” is unconstitutional. But the U.S. Justice Department said Monday it would not seek a hearing before the full appeals court, a move that could help clear the path to the Supreme Court.
It remains unclear when — or if — the Supreme Court will agree to hear the challenge filed by Florida, 25 other states, NFIB and two individual plaintiffs. Similar cases are working their way through lower courts in other parts of the country.
But the Florida case has been perhaps the most-closely watched challenge to the law. Former Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum filed the case in Pensacola immediately after President Obama signed the health-care law in March 2010.
In their petitions, the states and NFIB contend that the entire health law should be tossed out because the individual mandate is unconstitutional. That mandate will force almost all Americans to have health coverage in 2014 or face financial penalties.
While the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the individual mandate, it let the rest of the massive law move forward — a legal concept known as “severability.” Other parts of the law range from regulations on insurers to an expansion of Medicaid.
In its petition, the states described the mandate as the “centerpiece of the delicate compromise” that led to the law.
“We believe that if the mandate is unconstitutional, we firmly believe that the entire health care act is unconstitutional because of the inner workings of it,” Bondi said.
The Obama administration, however, disputes that the mandate is unconstitutional, saying Congress has the legal authority to approve such coverage requirements.
Administration lawyers also have fought arguments that the entire law should be thrown out if the mandate is found unconstitutional. As an example, they have argued in lower courts that part of the law expanding Medicaid coverage could happen regardless of the individual mandate.
In their petition, the states also seek to get the Supreme Court to find that the Medicaid expansion is unconstitutional. They contend it is a form of federal “coercion” because states will have to go along with the expansion or risk losing billions of dollars in Medicaid funding.
But the Obama administration argues that Medicaid has always been a voluntary program for states, which have to comply with federal requirements. Also, the administration says the federal government will pay almost all of the expansion-related costs in the early years.
–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida