Peltier column: Showdown in court this week with healthcare lawsuit

— In what may be his most lasting legacy as Florida’s Attorney General, Bill McCollum will take his case to federal court in Pensacola this week to defy President Barack Obama’s national health care plan that would require all citizens to carry some form of health care insurance.

On Tuesday, lawyers for McCollum’s office will square off against attorneys for the federal government in a closely watched case that is expected to be the first step in a judicial showdown that eventually may be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Florida and at least 19 other states have joined forces and resources to fight the landmark national healthcare initiative embodied in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law in March.

The National Federation of Independent Business has also jumped into the lawsuit, calling on the courts to shoot down the national health care initiative that, among other things, requires individuals to carry health insurance. McCollum filed the original suit the same day President Obama signed the controversial measure into law.

The original complaint was filed on behalf of Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Arizona, Pennsylvania South Dakota, Idaho, Washington, Colorado, Michigan, Louisiana and Utah. In May, Indiana, North Dakota, Mississippi, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia and Alaska jumped in.

The six-count lawsuit focuses on two main claims. First off, it contends the federal law illegally requires all citizens and legal residents to have health care coverage or pay a tax penalty. Such a requirement, the lawsuit argues, constitutes an unlawful direct tax in violation of Article I, sections 2 and 9 of the Constitution, because it forces a tax on individuals simply because they exist.

The lawsuit also contends federal law violates state sovereignty rights defined in the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by requiring states to spend billions of additional dollars for health coverage without providing adequate funds to do so. Specifically, the measure increases the ranks of Medicaid recipients, whose health care is paid, in part, by the state.

Florida, which now spends more than $18 billion on Medicaid servicing more than 2.7 million people, would be forced to pay even more without the ability to find another alternative, opponents of the federal health care law say.

“We firmly believe the government has exceeded its constitutional authority and we are prepared to do anything in our power to protect the people from irresponsible and unconstitutional actions by the federal government,” McCollum said in May.

Critics, however, say the pre-emption clause of the U.S. Constitution clearly gives the federal government the authority to craft such a national health system and payment structure.

In August, the Florida Supreme Court shot down a legislative proposal, Amendment 9, that would have prevented Floridians from being compelled to participate in any health care system and sought to protect residents who want to opt out of a new federal requirement that they eventually buy health insurance or face penalties. In a 5-2 ruling, however, the court ruled Amendment 9 violated the state constitution because the ballot title and summary were misleading.

E-mail Michael Peltier at mpeltier1234@comcast.net.

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