Thirteen attorneys general (AG) have jointly filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Treasury and the U.S. Department of Labor alleging the healthcare reform bill signed into law by President Barack Obama March 23 is unconstitutional. The Virginia AG has filed a separate lawsuit, due to specific state laws related to health insurance coverage.
The complaint alleges that the new law infringes on the constitutional rights of residents of the states by mandating all citizens and legal residents have qualifying healthcare coverage or pay a tax penalty. By imposing such a mandate, the law exceeds the powers of the U.S. under Article I of the Constitution and violates the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, according to the suit.
The 10th Amendment, which was ratified on Dec. 19, 1791, states the Constitution's principle of federalism and provides that “the powers not delegated to the U.S. by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
Pennsylvania AG Tom Corbett noted that the U.S. Supreme Court previously ruled that Congress cannot regulate noncommercial activities in U.S. versus Lopez (1995) and U.S. versus Morrison (2000).
In addition, the allegations state that the “tax penalty required under the law constitutes an unlawful direct tax in violation of Article I, sections 2 and 9 of the Constitution.”
“Although government can tax commercial activity, this law would constitute a tax on an individual’s commercial inactivity and not on the states’ populations or another concrete metric,” said Colorado AG John Suthers. “Such a tax would not be apportioned between the states, as required under the Commerce Clause.” He added that the courts have established that Congress cannot exercise its tax powers to “coerce” individuals or businesses.
The lawsuit further claims the healthcare reform law infringes on the sovereignty of the states by imposing new operating rules that the individual states must follow as well as requiring the state to spend additional monies without providing funds or resources to the state to help subsidize the cost of implementation of the law, according to Florida AG Bill McCollum.
Under the new law, McCollum said that Florida will be required to broaden its Medicaid eligibility standards to accommodate upwards of 50 percent more enrollees. Florida’s Medicaid program currently consumes more than a quarter of the State’s financial outlays, McCollum said.
The AGs from Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington jointly filed the suit. These 13 states filed the lawsuit, which is available online, in the Federal Court in the Northern District of Florida.
However, Virginia AG Kenneth T. Cuccinelli filed a lawsuit separately n the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division. According to Cuccinelli, "Virginia is in a unique situation that allows it the standing to file such a suit since Virginia is the only state so far to pass a law protecting its citizens from a government-imposed mandate to buy health insurance. The healthcare reform bill, with its insurance mandate, creates a conflict of laws between the federal government and Virginia."