Republican congressional candidates are promising, if elected, to repeal the new health-care law. In the meantime, opponents are trying to get the legal system to do it instead.
U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson said Monday in Richmond that he would rule by year end whether a provision in the health-care law requiring almost every American to have health insurance is constitutional. Hudson, appointed by President George W. Bush, conceded this suit would likely reach its conclusion in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is primarily challenging the health care law on its individual mandate. That provision requires almost all Americans to have health insurance by 2014 or pay a fine and it “goes beyond the power the government has,” said Cuccinelli, in a conference call following Monday morning’s arguments in federal court. “If Virginia loses this fight … the federal government can then order you to buy anything,” he said.
In Florida, a federal judge will likely hear arguments in December on a similar challenge to the law. The Florida case includes 20 states and the National Federation of Independent Business.
The individual mandate is essential to the newly created health care system. Requiring Americans to have insurance means private insurance companies will add millions of new customers. The premiums they pay, especially those from younger, healthy Americans, will help offset the costs insurance companies will incur from the law’s other requirements. Without that mandate, the law’s supporters say, insurance rates would increase dramatically and the new health care system would fall apart.
Cuccinelli said a court decision ruling the individual mandate is unconstitutional would likely force the government to halt its implementation of the entire law. Cuccinelli said Congress wrote the legislation in a way that would invalidate the full law if one piece was determined unconstitutional.
In defending the mandate, the Obama Administration argued those who fail to buy insurance cost others because they use health services when they need them. Then, if the uninsured cannot pay their bills, the government or health care providers have to bear the cost.
“The Attorney General (of Virginia) is overreaching and, in the process, would harm businesses and families all across the country,” said Ron Pollack, the Executive Director of Families USA, a group that lobbied for Congress to overhaul the health care system and expand coverage. “Today’s argument by the Virginia Attorney General represented political extremism and requested judicial activism run amok - to the potential harm of families across America,” said Pollack, in a statement.
While the Obama Administration defended the health care law in Virginia Monday, it also took to the offensive in Michigan. The Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The government alleges the insurer’s agreements with hospitals “raise hospital prices, prevent other insurers from entering the marketplace and discourage discounts.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan responded in a statement, saying “this lawsuit is without merit, and we will vigorously defend our ability to negotiate the deepest possible discounts for our members and customers with Michigan hospitals.”