Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Files Brief in Defense of Health Care Reform

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
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SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has signed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit strongly defending the constitutionality of federal health care reform and urging the court to uphold the law.

“Not only is the minimum coverage provision necessary to carry out Congress’ goals of lowering the costs of medical care and expanding insurance coverage, it is a proper exercise of federal authority that does not alter the essential attributes of state sovereignty,” the amicus brief states. “The Affordable Care Act continues a longstanding and necessary partnership between the states and the federal government in the healthcare policy arena.”

In January, a federal judge in Florida ruled that the law’s minimum coverage requirement, which mandates that individuals maintain health insurance or pay a fine, is unconstitutional because it regulates “inactivity” – or the decision to forgo coverage.

Attorney General Harris, joined by nine other attorneys general, rejected that view in the amicus brief filed yesterday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which is based in Atlanta. They argued that the Constitution gives Congress broad powers to regulate interstate commerce – and that an individual’s decision to purchase health insurance has a significant impact on interstate commerce because it allows formation of risk pools, lowers healthcare costs nationally and reduces the cost of uncompensated care.

The failure of millions of Americans to purchase health insurance has a significant impact on the states. In 2009, more than 7.2 million Californians – nearly one in four people under the age of 65 – lacked insurance for all or part of the year. More than 5.5 million Californians who could not afford private health insurance are enrolled in government-sponsored health plans, which will cost the state a projected $42 billion in the next fiscal year. According to the amicus brief, $27.1 billion of those funds comes from the General Fund, which faces a $25 billion deficit.

The minimum coverage provision of the Affordable Care Act will reduce the need to shift the cost of uncompensated care of the uninsured – and will thus reduce the expenses now absorbed by the states and by individuals with health insurance.

Others joining California in this brief are Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, New York, Oregon and Vermont.

In January, the same group of attorneys general – except the District of Columbia – filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit arguing for the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act:

In March, those attorneys general filed an amicus brief supporting the law’s constitutionality in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit:

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PDF icon Amicus Brief_11th Circuit1.01 MB