Judge never addressed stopping health law, administration argues


The administration on Monday night said that the states should not have expected the law to be halted because the so-called individual mandate applied to just 10 of 450 of the law’s provisions. Further, halting the law would complicate the federal healthcare system because many of the changes have already gone into effect or will become effective well before the individual mandate takes hold in 2014.

“There is no indication that the Court considered or anticipated that defendants would rescind Medicare provider and physician payment rates that have already been implemented through a series of complex rulemakings and that govern payment of roughly one hundred million claims each month,” the administration wrote. “Nor is there any indication that the Court considered or anticipated that hundreds of millions of unspent dollars in federal grants to plaintiff states would be frozen or recouped pending appellate review. Yet, these would be the inevitable results of an injunction as to
plaintiffs.”

Even as there is uncertainty over the law’s implemenation, the administration pointed out in its filing that 24 of the 26 states in the lawsuit have either applied for grants or continued to draw down funds made available by the healthcare law enacted 11 months ago. In the last week alone, the administration made available more than $4.5 billion in reform law grants.

The states and the National Federation of Independent Business said in a court filing last week that Vinson meant to halt the ruling, and the plaintiffs accused the administration of using an unfair delaying tactic in order to continue the law’s implementation. The administration hit back at the accusation in its filing.

“Plaintiffs profess surprise at defendants’ 'inexplicabl[e] delay' in seeking this clarification but, at the same time, they continue to take advantage of numerous provisions of the Act that they did not challenge and that the Court did not address,” the administration wrote. 

Vinson said last week that he would promptly respond to the clarification request after the administration and the states both made their cases. Regardless of the Vinson’s decision, the case will move onto the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The administration’s announcement on Monday that it would support allowing states to opt out of the healthcare reform law earlier – including the law’s individual mandate – would have no effect on the constitutional argument surrounding the law, a senior administration official said. 

So far, three Clinton-appointed federal judges have upheld the law's individual mandate, while Vinson and another Republican-appointed judge have ruled it unconstitutional.