By Peter J. Smith  

PENSACOLA, Florida, September 14, 2010 ( – A U.S. district judge in Florida has unofficially approved for trial parts of a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of 20 U.S. states against the federal government over the constitutionality of the new health care reform law.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida declined to dismiss the lawsuit after a Tuesday hearing at the federal courthouse in Pensacola. However, he said he expected to dismiss some unspecified aspects of the states’ suit, which would be made clear in a ruling set for October 14. 

The suit contends that the individual insurance mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act exceeds Congress’s prerogative to regulate interstate commerce, as penalizing individuals to purchase health insurance amounts to a regulation of economic “inactivity.”

“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,” Florida attorney general Bill McCollum, who is leading the lawsuit, said today.

Florida's fight is being joined by the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Washington. The suit is also joined by the National Federation of Independent Business and two individuals. 

In response, lawyers for the federal government argued that because "virtually everyone at some point needs medical services," insurance amounts to an advance payment; in addition, the mandate "forms an essential part of a comprehensive interrelated regulatory scheme" designed to prevent medical costs from uninsured patients getting passed on to the taxpayer.

Besides the insurance mandate, the states also argue that the new care law unduly harms them by forcing them pay for 10 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid in 2020. Florida predicts that it would have to shell out one billion dollars annually to comply with the law’s mandates.

McCollum said the only choice left to states under the new law would be to opt out the Medicaid program, a move he described as “unrealistic” since it would deprive the poor of health care coverage altogether.

Virginia, which filed its own lawsuit against the health care law, was the first state to fire a legislative warning shot against constitutional overreach. The Virginia General Assembly passed a bill in March declaring any federal mandate to require individuals to purchase health insurance null and void in the commonwealth.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson of the Eastern District of Virginia ruled August 2 that Virginia’s challenge to the national health care reform law could proceed to the discovery process.

“While this case raises a host of complex constitutional issues, all seem to distill to the single question of whether or not Congress has the power to regulate — and tax — a citizen’s decision not to participate in interstate commerce,” stated Hudson in his 32-page decision.


See previous coverage by 

Feds Demand Court Toss Virginia Lawsuit Against Health Care Law

New States Join Courtroom Revolt Against ObamaCare 

Oklahoma Voters May Nullify Fed Health Care Law in November