Florida Responds in Government’s Appeal of Reform Litigation

Per BNA Health Law Reporter – BREAKING NEWS
Florida and 25 other states May 4 responded to Obama administration arguments for overturning a ruling that invalidated the entire landmark federal health reform law, based on a finding that one unconstitutional provision could not be divorced from the remainder of the law (Florida v. HHS, 11th Cir., No. 11-11021, response brief filed 5/4/11).
In a press release, Florida Attorney General Pamela Jo Bondi (R) said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), enacted in March 2010, “dramatically oversteps Congress’s power and intrudes on our personal freedom.” She said the state and its coplaintiffs are “look[ing] forward to presenting our case to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in June and, soon thereafter, to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The states argued in the brief that PPACA “pushes even the most expansive conception of the federal government’s constitutional powers past the breaking point” in at least two respects: by imposing a “direct mandate on individuals to obtain health insurance” and by expanding the Medicaid program beyond boundaries imposed on Congress’s spending power.
Expanding on the first argument, which challenged Congress’s authority under the Constitution’s commerce clause to enact the individual mandate, or minimum coverage provision, the states argued that this is “the first time in our Nation’s history that Congress has required individuals to enter into commerce as a condition of living in the United States.” The individual mandate is scheduled to take effect in 2014 and will require virtually all citizens to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.
If the individual mandate is upheld based on the government’s interest in controlling health care costs, the states said, then Congress likewise would have authority to “order individuals to eat more vegetables and fewer desserts, to exercise at least 45 minutes per day, to sleep at least eight hours per day, and to drink one glass of wine a day but never any beer.”
The nonstate coplaintiffs, the National Federation of Independent Business, Kaj Ahlberburg, and May Brown, filed a separate response brief. They argued that the “mandate lacks any foundation in constitutional text or precedent,” and “cannot be justified as permissible Commerce Clause activity.”
The case, an appeal from a decision of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, is one of the first to reach the appellate level. Oral argument is scheduled for June 8.

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