Obama Signs Health Reform and the Fight Begins

March 23, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Just seven minutes after President Barack Obama signed into law the health reform bill passed by the U.S. House late Sunday night, attorneys general from 13 states filed a lawsuit claiming the bill is unconstitutional.

“The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage,” the lawsuit says, according to the Associated Press. The new legislation not only requires individuals to obtain health care insurance, it includes a provision that employers with 50 or more workers would face federal fines for not providing insurance coverage (see Employers Face Health Coverage Mandate in 2014, or Do They?).      

According to the AP, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is taking the lead and is joined by other Republican attorneys general from South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Michigan, Utah, Pennsylvania, Alabama, South Dakota, Idaho, Washington, and Colorado, as well as James “Buddy” Caldwell of Louisiana, who is a Democrat. Some states are considering separate lawsuits and still others may join the multi-state suit.       

McCollum also argues the bill will cause “substantial harm and financial burden” to the states, and South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster said the lawsuit is necessary to protect his state’s sovereignty.       

However, according to the news report, legal experts say it has little chance of succeeding because, under the Constitution, federal laws trump state laws.       

Some states are also looking at other ways to avoid participating in the overhaul. Virginia and Idaho have passed legislation aimed at blocking the bill’s insurance requirement from taking effect (see VA Lawmakers Approve Ban on Mandatory Health Coverage), and the Republican-led legislature in Florida is trying to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ask voters to exempt the state from the federal law’s requirements. At least 60% of voters would have to approve.