KHI News Service

Briefs filed in health reform challenge

By KHI NEWS SERVICE | February 07, 2012

Kansas and the 25 other states challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act have finished filing their initial briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced today.

"At its core, this historic litigation is about establishing whether any enforceable constitutional limits remain on the size, scope and ultimately cost of the federal government," Schmidt said in a prepared statement.

One of the briefs outlines the states' objection to perhaps the most controversial element of the Affordable Care Act, the so-called "individual mandate."

The mandate would require virtually all Americans who can afford health insurance to have it or pay tax penalties. That provision is scheduled to become effective Jan. 1, 2014, along with several other major components of the reform law.

The legal challenge from the states was launched by Florida. Kansas joined the lawsuit a year ago. The case was the only one among several challenges to the reform law in which a federal appeals court struck down the mandate.

In November, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear the case. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 26, and a ruling is likely by the end of the court's term in June.

The court signaled that it would consider the individual mandate in conjunction with other elements of the law — namely the provision that forces insurers to take all applicants, even those with pre-existing conditions.

The other briefs filed by the states relate to:

• Medicaid expansion — The states argue that the law's expansion of the Medicaid program is an unconstitutional, unfunded mandate. About 130,000 uninsured Kansans would become eligible for Medicaid under the law, according to projections.

• Severability — The states argue that if the individual mandate is found unconstitutional, the rest of the law must also fall.

• Anti-Injunction Act — The Constitution bars courts from hearing cases that seek to block collection of a tax until the tax is actually applied. The states argue that the individual mandate does not amount to a tax and so courts may consider the legal challenge.