Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Files U.S. Supreme Court Brief in Support of Constitutionality of Health Care Reform

Friday, January 13, 2012
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SACRAMENTO --- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the constitutionality of federal health care reform and urging the high court to uphold the landmark law.

“Though state governments and private actors have taken important and innovative steps to expand access to health care and to restrain the growth of health care costs, no remedy can be fully effective without action on a national level. The Commerce Clause empowers Congress to take such action, and Congress properly employed that power in addressing the nation’s healthcare crisis through the reforms enacted in the Affordable Care Act,” the amicus brief states.

In August 2011, a divided United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s minimum coverage provision, which requires that individuals maintain adequate health insurance, is unconstitutional. The United States government appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments in the matter in March 2012.

Attorney General Harris, joined by 12 other attorneys general, argued in a brief filed today in the U.S. Supreme Court that the Constitution gives Congress broad powers to regulate interstate commerce, including individual conduct that substantially affects interstate commerce.

The failure of millions of Americans to purchase health insurance has a substantial negative impact on interstate commerce, as well as state economies and budgets. In 2009, the healthcare economy accounted for 17.6% of the nation’s gross domestic product. In 2008, the cost of uncompensated health care — health care provided to those who lacked insurance or some other ability pay — was $43 billion nationally. As a result, providers shift a significant portion of those costs onto insurance companies and other payers. Each American family, on average, pays $1,000 more than necessary in health insurance premiums as a result of the shifting of those costs.

“Health care is one of the fastest growing expenditures in the federal budget, California’s state budget, and the budgets of families across America,” Attorney General Harris said. “Federal health care reform is not only essential to improving access to quality health care in California, it also is central to the long-term health of our economy, as well as state and local budgets.”

The historic health care reform law will reduce the need to shift the cost of uncompensated care of the uninsured or underinsured and will reduce the expenses absorbed by the states and by individuals with health insurance. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is an indispensable aid to the states in their own efforts to tackle the healthcare problems their residents face.

Other states joining California in this brief are Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Vermont. The brief is also joined by the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.

A copy of the amicus is attached to the online version of this release at

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PDF icon n2611_amicus_health.pdf409.11 KB