Lawsuits over health insurance care law

from taking any further action implementing the law. The non-profit law firm, based in Ann Arbor, often brings anti-abortion cases.

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•On Oct. 18, the Republican attorney general of Virginia — who has compared the Obama administration’s regard for individual rights to the tyranny of King George — heads back to court for another round of hearings with a federal judge who recently turned down a Justice Department request to throw the case out.

The burst of litigation has the framers of the law and the Obama administration playing defense. Many scholars, such as Charles Fried of Harvard Law School, argue that the law is on firm legal footing. But there is no quick resolution in sight, and it may take a year or two, and a trip to the U.S. Supreme Court, for all the lawsuits to get sorted out. Still, that might be a quicker route to upending the law, or parts of it, than a threatened GOP repeal effort in Congress. Even if Republicans pick up more seats in November, they’ll have a tough time getting major changes past President Obama.

Under the health care law enacted in March, more than 32 million additional Americans are expected to get insurance, either through an extension of Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor, or through exchanges where low- and moderate-income individuals and families can buy private insurance with federal subsidies.

The law’s ambitious sweep has made it a target for those who see it as an unjustified expansion of government. Plaintiffs challenging the law include a variety of religious groups, the nation’s largest small-business trade association, and a who’s who of conservative legal activism.

Sissel, for example, is represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a Sacramento-based legal watchdog group that supports limited government, property rights and free enterprise.

Liberty University, the fundamentalist Lynchburg, Va., college founded by the late Jerry Falwell, has filed a lawsuit claiming that exemptions from the law for religious groups are too narrow and violate freedom of religion under the First Amendment. The Tucson-based Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, which opposes government intervention in health care, also has sued.

Several cases, similar views

In many cases, the lawsuits make similar arguments. Several contend, for example, that a provision of the law requiring most people without health insurance to get coverage or pay a penalty exceeds the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce under the Constitution.

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The states, in the Florida lawsuit, also are challenging a provision of the law that greatly expands Medicaid. They claim the changes will cost them billions of dollars and wreck their budgets for years.

Justice Department lawyers say the lawsuits are without merit and premature. The penalties for people without insurance won’t take effect until 2014, and the states won’t have to start picking up costs of the expanded Medicaid until 2017.

But critics say the changes are so profound, the courts should act now. The law will “transform our nation beyond recognition” and “arm Congress with unbridled top-down control over virtually every aspect of persons’ lives,” the states have argued in court documents in the Florida case.


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