State lawmakers say healthcare reform law preserves states' rights

Seventy-one state lawmakers from 26 states have asked to be allowed to file a brief opposing the main legal challenge to the healthcare reform law.

The bipartisan group of legislators says it is best suited to push back against claims that the new law — particularly its expansion of Medicaid — infringes on states' rights. That's one of the claims made in the largest healthcare reform lawsuit, which was filed March 23 in Florida and includes 20 states.

"Given the Plaintiffs' emphasis on state sovereignty," the motion reads, "the views of State Legislators should not be excluded, particularly since the Plaintiffs purport to represent the interests of state sovereigns in general — when, in fact, many States and their citizens do not agree with Plaintiffs' view of the Act and, specifically, the expansion of Medicaid."

The group includes lawmakers from 12 states whose governor or attorney general is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Separately, the nation’s six leading associations of hospitals and health systems have also asked to file a brief opposing the lawsuit. Healthcare reform supporters argue that the law and its individual mandate seek to regulate healthcare activity, in which everyone participates — even those without insurance, because of unplanned visits to the emergency room.

"Most particularly," they argue, "the Hospital Associations can shed light, through data and descriptions of real-world medical treatment decisions, on whether the uninsured Americans who will be affected by the individual mandate are engaged in relevant 'activity' — a question this Court identified as 'perhaps the most significant one' in the case."

The groups include the American Hospital Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the Federation of American Hospitals, the National Association of Children's Hospitals and the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems.

Also last week, 35 of the nation's leading economists — including three Nobel laureates — offered to "provide this Court insight into the key economic factors, including the significant distortions in the markets for medical care and health insurance, that led to the long-running health care crisis in this country."

They also vow to "explain why the unique economics of health care distinguish it from virtually every other business" and to "demonstrate that upholding the constitutionality of that provision will not serve as a basis for an unlimited expansion of the federal government's powers."

On the other side, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have over the past few days announced their intention to file briefs in support of the challenge, as have Republican Govs. Tim Pawlenty (Minn.) and Donald Carcieri (R.I.).