Tracking The Florida Health Care Lawsuit

October 01, 2010 4:23 pm ET

The passage of the Affordable Care Act marked the beginning of a new era in consumer protections and accessibility to quality, affordable health care.  But once signed into law, twenty states filed suit against the federal government. Bill McCollum, Republican Attorney General of Florida and primary plaintiff, vowed to file a lawsuit fighting the bill's implementation in Florida, calling it "an egregious violation of individual liberty and limited government."  McCollum and the other Attorneys General, Governors, and state representatives named in the lawsuit are attempting to overturn over two hundred years of precedent ruling in favor of federal law preempting state law.

Lawsuit Overview

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010 and twenty (20) states filed suit against the U.S. government. 

Key Players

  Plaintiffs:

  • Florida (Bill McCollum, Attorney General)
  • Alabama (Troy King, Attorney General)
  • Alaska (Daniel Sullivan, Attorney General)
  • Arizona (Janice Brewer, Governor)
  • Colorado (John W. Suthers, Attorney General)
  • Georgia (Sonny Perdue, Governor)
  • Idaho (Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General)
  • Indiana (Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General)
  • Louisiana (James D. "Buddy" Caldwell, Attorney General)
  • Michigan (Michael Cox, Attorney General)
  • Mississippi (Haley Barbour, Governor)
  • Nebraska (Jon Bruning, Attorney General)
  • Nevada (Jim Gibbons, Governor)
  • North Dakota (Wayne Stenehjem, Attorney General)
  • Pennsylvania (Thomas Corbett, Jr., Attorney General)
  • South Carolina (Henry McMaster, Attorney General)
  • South Dakota (Marty J. Jackley, Attorney General)
  • Texas (Greg Abbott, Attorney General)
  • Utah (Mark Shurtleff, Attorney General)
  • Washington (Robert McKenna, Attorney General)
  • National Federation of Independent Business (Non-profit)
  • Kaj Ahlburg (individual)
  • Mary Brown (individual)  

  Defendants:

  • United States Department of Health and Human Services
  • Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services
  • United States Department of Treasury
  • Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the United States Department of Treasury
  • United States Department of Labor
  • Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of the United States Department of Labor

Main Arguments and Claims of the States (Plaintiffs)

  • Individual Mandate Is Unprecedented And Unconstitutional. The plaintiffs claim that the individual mandate forces them to purchase insurance, which they assert Congress has never done before and lacks the constitutional authority to do. 
  • The Federal Government Is Coercing States Via Medicaid and Healthcare Insurance. The plaintiffs also claim that the federal government is "using Medicaid to reach universal healthcare coverage goals and forcing fundamental changes in the nature and scope of the Medicaid program upon the States... and requiring plaintiff states to carry out the insurance mandates," which they feel amounts to coercion. 
  • Interference With State Sovereignty. By invoking the Tenth Amendment, the States claim that the federal government is violating the principles of federalism and dual sovereignty (state and federal government) — in other words stepping on the states' toes in enacting the mandates. 

[State of Florida, et. al v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, et. al Amended Complaint, 5/14/10]

Timeline of Lawsuit

Action

Date

Lawsuit Initiated

March 23, 2010

Amended Complaint Filed

May 14, 2010

Department of Justice (DOJ) Files Motion To Dismiss

June 16, 2010

States File Response to Motion to Dismiss

August 6, 2010

DOJ Files Reply to Response to Motion to Dismiss

August 27, 2010

Judge Rules On Motion to Dismiss

September 14, 2010

Written Order of Judge from September 14, 2010 Motion to Dismiss Hearing Entered

On or before October 14, 2010

Either Party Files a Motion For Summary Judgment

On or before November 4, 2010

Opposing Party Responds

On or before November 23, 2010

Moving Party Replies to the Response

On or before December 6, 2010

Hearing on Motion For Summary Judgment

December 16, 2010

[The Hill, 9/16/10]

The Department Of Justice Filed A Motion To Dismiss On June 16, 2010

On June 16, the Department of Justice, which handles all lawsuits against the United States and its agencies, filed a Motion To Dismiss in an attempt to get the states' complaint tossed out of court.

Overview of Motion to Dismiss:

  • Amendments To Medicaid Fall Within Congress' Spending Power. The government argued that state participation in Medicaid is voluntary and states can either accept funds with the conditions imposed by Congress or choose not to accept them, which is a major function of Congress' spending power.
  • No 10th Amendment Violations. The government argues that they are not commanding States to enact or enforce federal regulatory programs, but they are giving the states the choice of regulating activity according to federal standards or having state law pre-empted by federal regulation (the federal law reigns supreme over state law). 
  • The States Do Not Have Standing To Bring This Lawsuit. In order to assert a constitutional claim, the plaintiffs must have "standing" by demonstrating that there will be "imminent harm" caused to the states. Since the regulations have not been fully implemented, the government contends that the states failed to demonstrate "imminent harm."
  • The Coverage Provision Is Constitutional. Congress has the right to regulate any activity within the channels of interstate commerce. The government argues that economic decisions and the way health care services are paid for are within the channels of interstate commerce. If the court agrees, then the government would only need to show a rational basis relating to a legitimate government interest in order for the legislation to be upheld.

[State of Florida, et. al v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, et. al Defendant's Motion To Dismiss, 6/16/10]

What Happens Next...?

Possible Outcomes:

  • Motions For Summary Judgment. The first trial move will be for both the Plaintiffs and Defendants to bring Motions for Summary Judgment. This means that both sides will assert that the judge should rule for them based on the evidence that they have presented before the trial has taken place.
  • Judge Rules On Behalf Of The States. If the judge finds in favor of the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment this means that the states have won their claim and that the entire bill is deemed unconstitutional putting the government back to square one in creating new legislation.
  • Judge Rules On Behalf Of The Government. If the judge rules in favor of the Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment, this means the states lose and their lawsuit gets thrown out.
  • Motions Denied, Case Will Proceed To Trial. If the judge denies both Motions For Summary Judgment then the case will continue to trial.
  • Appealing The Ruling. More than likely both sides will appeal rulings that are against their favor, if the case proceeds to trial. Appeals take many years because the case must first go through the United States Court of Appeals (11th District) and then the Supreme Court by writ of certiorari to make a final determination on the issue. It could take several years before the case reaches the Supreme Court, and there is a final ruling on whether the law is constitutional.

How Does The Florida Lawsuit Relate To The Virginia Lawsuit?

Virginia has also filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, challenging the constitutionality of the health care law.  The major differences between the Florida and Virginia lawsuits are the number of plaintiffs and that Virginia only raises one count (the unconstitutionality of the individual mandate) against the federal government, while Florida is raising several counts, as described above.

Key Players:

Plaintiff:           Kenneth Cuccinelli II, Attorney General of Virginia

Defendant:       Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

Summary:

  • Ken Cuccinelli, the Attorney General of Virginia, filed his complaint with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on March 23, 2010.

The Complaint raised the following argument:

  • Commonwealth of Virginia is not interstate commerce so the government does not have the right to regulate it and impose the individual mandate

Department of Health and Human Services files a Motion To Dismiss on May 24, 2010 citing two major arguments:

  • The court did not have jurisdiction to decide the case
  • The Attorney General's complaint did not state a claim upon which relief can be granted
  • Judge Henry Hudson decides to deny the motion to dismiss and allow the state to proceed with its lawsuit on August 2, 2010.
  • Both sides filed Motions for Summary Judgment on September 23, 2010.
  • Final decisions will be made about the Summary Judgment Motions on October 18, 2010.
Print