As discussed in prior posts, the Obama Administration's healthcare reform law is facing multiple legal challenges from various states. The states claim healthcare reform is a power grab by the federal government who is exercising rights not given to it by the U.S. Constitution. The government says it is well within the powers of Congress to legislate over such an important issue as healthcare. The first suit, brought in Virginia was argued on July 1.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli outlined his basic argument to NPR earlier in the year. "It is our position that the individual mandate is unconstitutionally overbroad under the Commerce Clause," Cuccinelli, a Republican, said. "You cannot compel someone to buy something from someone else." As you will recall, nearly every American will be required to purchase health insurance. This will be important for keeping down the ever rising price of health care in this country, according to the Obama Administration.
Rob Weiner, the Justice Department's point man for defending the health care statute, told NPR the states are trying to have it both ways. "The states cannot say we're entitled to take the money and disregard the conditions. That's not the way it works," he says. "Congress is appropriating billions of dollars that it's providing to the states for Medicaid, and it's entitled to attach conditions to the billions of dollars that it provides," he says.
One of the key constitutional issues in the case is a states' rights vs. federal government powers argument. The states argue that Congress is misusing and overreaching its power under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution when it forces people to purchase a product.
Government lawyers and others see the law as constitutional not only under Congress's Commerce Clause power, but in its power to tax. Rob Weiner tells NPR a there is a clear federal interest in health care because it costs so much for taxpayers — $43 billion to cover people who didn't have insurance and didn't have an ability to pay their medical costs.
No matter the outcome of the Virginia case or the one that is next up from Florida, the best bet is that the Supreme Court will be the one to make a final decision in this contentions and divisive case.