Fourteen US states sue to block health reform

Yahoo! News (Link) - AFP (March 23, 2010)

In a sign of political battles to come, 14 US states filed lawsuits Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of health care reform just moments after President Barack Obama signed it into law.

Other states are expected to join the fight against the far-reaching reforms which could place huge burdens on state budgets. Many are also considering legislation to block a provision which requires most people to buy insurance or pay a fine.

�This lawsuit should put the federal government on notice that Florida will not permit the constitutional rights of our citizens and the sovereignty of our state to be ignored or disregarded,� said Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.

McCollum, a Republican who is running for state governor in the upcoming election, said the federal government had no right to impose a �tax on living� by forcing people to buy insurance.

The historic 940-billion-dollar overhaul will extend coverage to some 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured, ensuring 95 percent of US citizens under age 65 will have health insurance.

The lawsuit filed in a Florida federal court calls the reform bill an �unprecedented encroachment� on state sovereignty by requiring states to spend billions on expanding health care coverage to the poor.

�This is not a partisan issue,� he told reporters. �It�s a question for most of us in the states of the cost it is to our people and to the rights and freedoms of the individual citizens.�

McCollum was joined by the Republican attorneys general of Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Washington, as well as the Democratic attorney general of Louisiana.

Asked about the challenges, Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer replied: �We clearly believe that the bill�s provisions are, in fact, constitutional and will be so held.�

Virginia filed a separate suit on Tuesday asking a federal judge to invalidate the entire health care reform act because the federal government overstepped its authority in requiring people to buy health insurance.

�There has never been a point in our history where the federal government has been given the authority to require citizens to buy goods or services,� Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement.

Obama�s Republican foes have waged a political war on the bill and have vowed to repeal it should they retake the House and Senate in November mid-term elections.

Virginia and Idaho recently have passed laws protecting residents from being forced to buy health insurance and some 34 other states out of the nation�s 50 are considering similar legislation.

The White House does not believe their opponents �will be very successful� because there is �pretty longstanding precedent on the constitutionality of this,� spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday.

But the question of whether the federal government can require people to buy health insurance will likely head to the Supreme Court, said Jonathan Siegel, a law professor at George Washington University.

�Is the bill constitutional? I think the answer is yes, but it�s not a 100-percent slam dunk,� Siegel told AFP.

The federal government is granted the right to regulate commerce and is also granted whatever �necessary and proper� powers are needed to do so, Siegel said.

While it is clear that the only way to get private insurance companies to stop discriminating against sick people is to make sure that people don�t wait until they get sick to buy it, he said it is not completely clear if the government�s powers extend to requiring people to buy insurance.

The question of whether state legislators can try to block the bill�s implementation has a much more straightforward answer.

�State law is irrelevant,� Siegel said. �Where state and federal law conflict, federal law wins.�