BRADENTON, Fla. — With President Obama’s signature barely dry on the massive health care reform bill, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Treasury Department and the Department of Labor, alleging that the bill is unconstitutional.
McCollum was joined by attorneys general from a dozen other states in filing the 22-page suit in the U.S District Court in Pensacola.
“This bipartisan effort by attorneys general around the country should put the federal government on notice that we will not tolerate the constitutional rights of our citizens and the sovereignty of our states to be trampled on,” McCollum said in a statement. “This law represents an unprecedented encroachment on the liberty of the American people, and I will pursue this litigation to the highest court if necessary.”
The encroachment, according to the suit, is a mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that eventually requires all citizens and legal residents of the U.S. to have qualifying health care coverage or pay a tax penalty. Such a requirement is not authorized in the Constitution nor is penalizing people with a tax, the suit said.
The suit also uses Florida and its current budget problems as an example of how the act encroaches on the sovereignty of the states.
The law requires that Florida vastly broaden its Medicaid eligibility standards to accommodate 50% or more new enrollees and “imposes onerous new operating rules that Florida must follow,” the suit said, claiming that it would require the state to spend billions of additional dollars to implement the act.
“This onerous encroachment occurs at a time when Florida faces having to make severe budget cuts to offset shortfalls in its already-strained budget, which the state constitution requires to be balanced each fiscal year (unlike the federal budget), and at a time when Florida’s Medicaid program already consumes more than a quarter of the state’s financial outlays,” said the suit, adding that no state can withdraw from Medicaid because it has become a “customary and necessary” program.
Florida was joined in the suit by attorneys general from South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Michigan, Utah, Pennsylvania, Alabama, South Dakota, Idaho, Washington, Colorado, and Louisiana.
Except for Louisiana, all other attorneys general who joined the suit are Republican. No Republicans in Congress voted for the bill.
McCollum, who is running for governor this year, has denied that filing the suit was politically motivated.
However, a number of legal experts have said that similar suits against the federal government have been consistently struck down.