Six states seek to join Fla. challenge to reform law

ModernHealthcare | Six more states have asked to join the most expansive of the various legal challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which would give the law’s critics the ability to say a majority of states opposed the law, if the judge grants the request.

The six new states—Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Ohio, Wisconsin and Wyoming—are seeking to join the 20 states that have already filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Fla., seeking to declare the reform law unconstitutional. The request to join the lawsuit follows elections in those states that put Republican lawmakers, governors or attorneys general into power.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson is already drafting his final opinion in the case, having taken full oral and written arguments on Dec. 16. But the litigants say adding new parties would not change the arguments.

Critics say Congress does not have the power to force consumers to buy health insurance, or to force states to expand their Medicaid programs. Supporters of the law counter that the individual insurance mandate and the expansion of Medicaid are necessary to expand insurance coverage for 32 million more people.

Observers from both sides say the case appears destined for a final decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, though that process could take years.

Dozens of lawsuits challenging the ACA have been filed across the country, and so far only three judges have ruled on the central question of constitutionality. Federal judges in Detroit and Lynchburg, Va., upheld the law, while a judge in Richmond, Va., struck it down. Appeals to the U.S. Circuit courts have been filed in all three cases.

Supporters of the law have acknowledged that Vinson appears likely to rule it unconstitutional, based on statements he made in court and opinions already filed in the case.

Observers also note that the three decisions so far have broken along party lines, and Vinson was appointed by President Ronald Reagan.


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