Health care ruling bolsters 20-state legal fight

December 13, 2010

The success of a lawsuit in Virginia targeting the national health care reform law gave some legs Monday to a parallel suit that Colorado Attorney General John Suthers joined in March.

Both suits contend that, under the 10th Amendment's commerce clause, Congress does not have the power to require Americans to purchase health insurance. The bill, a keystone of President Barack Obama’s first years in office, mandates that all Americans purchase insurance by 2014 or pay a fine.

The suit in which Suthers is involved will be heard in Florida federal court Thursday, said Suthers’ spokesman, Mike Saccone.

“We were pleased to see what the Virginia court decided today,” he said. “It underlines what the attorney general has been saying from the beginning.”

Suthers is one of 20 attorneys general suing the federal government over the measure, called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Local health care strategist Steve Hyde was delighted with the Virginia ruling.

“Even if it is constitutional, it’s un-American,” Hyde said of the law. “There’s never been a law that required anyone to buy anything from a private vendor simply because they’re a citizen of the United States.”

Political reaction to the decision fell predictably along party lines.

Congressman Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, hailed the verdict as a “victory for all Americans.”

“Patients, not the federal government, must be in charge of their health care,” Lamborn said in a statement.

A spokesman for Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, noted that there have been prior decisions that have declared such mandates constitutional, and said the senator is confident the law will be upheld.

There is “overwhelming precedent” supporting the law, said Ed Kahn, a legal analyst with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, which, among other things, advocates for affordable health care.

He cited 14 recent cases in which similar claims — that the health care bill violates the Constitution’s commerce clause — were rejected by other federal courts around the country, including one in Virginia.

Experts predict the issue will wind up before the Supreme Court.

Contact the writer 476-4825.

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