States respond in health care overhaul lawsuit

PENSACOLA, Fla. - Twenty states and the nation’s most influential small business lobby plan to file their response to the government’s attempt to dismiss their lawsuit challenging the health care overhaul Friday.

In June, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the U.S. District Court in Pensacola lacks jurisdiction to the subject-matter in some of the lawsuit’s claims. They added that other parts of the lawsuit failed to state claims that would allow relief to be granted in judgment.

The states, the National Federation of Independent Business and several individual taxpayers are set to file their responses in Pensacola federal court.

The biggest issue raised in the lawsuit is whether the government can require all citizens to purchase health care insurance and fine those who do not comply.

Executive Director of the Small Business Legal Center of the National Federation of Independent Business Karen Harned said, the court must hear the case to preserve individual liberties granted through the Constitution.

“The federal government does not have the authority to regulate an individual’s decision to do nothing. If they did, then they could force us to purchase any product they want,” she said.

In a statement, Harned said the government’s motion to dismiss was based on “political rhetoric and flimsy legal arguments” and was an attempt to distract the court from evaluating the case’s constitutional issues.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson has set a Sept. 14 hearing to consider arguments on the motion to dismiss.

Leading the legal challenge is Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican candidate for governor. Other states involved in the lawsuit are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington.

In its motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the Justice Department said the requirement to buy coverage is an exercise of Congress’ constitutional power to tax and spend. Government attorneys also have said that a genuine constitutional issue must be present in this case for it to continue and be moved from the legislative and executive branches of government to the judiciary branch.

The states, however, argue that the new law violates the 10th Amendment, which says the states an people have powers that the constitution does not grant to the federal government nor prohibit the states from having. Thus, with the new law requiring them to pay additional Medicaid costs that are not covered by the federal government and does not allow them to opt out of the program, designed for low-income and disabled people, because it has become too popular it is unconstitutional.

The health care law requires most Americans to carry health insurance, through either an employer, a government program or by buying their own policy. That mandate will go into effect in 2014. Insurers then will be required to take all applicants while the government will offer tax credits to help middle-class households pay insurance premiums. Furthermore, Medicaid will be expanded to cover millions more low-income people. Individuals who refuse to get health insurance will face a tax penalty, with exceptions for financial hardship and religious reasons.

In the meantime, the federal government has set up a website to aid in finding coverage and better explain the new law. It can be found at

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