Federal attorneys for the Department of Health and Human Services filed a 39-page brief in U.S. District Court in Richmond on Monday to have Virginia's lawsuit against the healthcare reform law dismissed. The attorneys claim that the Virginia law that makes it illegal to force individuals to buy health insurance was merely a ploy to "nullify the federal statute," reports the Washington Post.
Virginia's lawsuit was separate from a larger lawsuit against the healthcare reform law that initially included 13 states, and now is up to 20.
"The standing requirement is intended precisely to prevent litigation that is merely politics by other means," the brief reads. "If Virginia's policy preferences conflict with federal policy adopted by the elected representatives of the people, Virginia must seek relief in the political arena, rather than the federal courts."
The federal government also claims that under the Commerce Clause, it in fact can force citizens to buy health insurance, and calls Virginia's claim refuting such a notion "mistaken."
"[I]n focusing on services people almost certainly will receive, and regulating the economic decision whether to pay for healthcare in advance, through insurance, or to try to pay later, out of pocket, the provision, contrary to Virginia's claim, does not open the door to regulation of a full range of life choices," the brief adds.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli insists that citizens choosing not to buy insurance are "not engaging in commerce," hence debunking the federal government's claims. "Just being alive is not interstate commerce," he says. "If it were, there would be no limit to the Commerce Clause and to Congress's authority to regulate everything we do."
The state has until June 7 to respond to the federal government's brief.
For more information:
- here's the brief filed by the federal government
- here's a release from Cuccinelli's office responding to the brief
- here's a video of Cuccinelli's response
- read this Washington Post article