Attorneys general support individual mandate

To the relief of health insurers hoping the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the health reform law's individual mandate later this year, several state attorneys general filed briefs Friday with the court to support the provision.

In one amicus brief, 13 attorneys general argued that the federal government has the authority to require everyone to buy health insurance under the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause, reported MedPage Today.

"The healthcare industry takes up at least one-sixth of our economy," Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said at a press conference, according to Insurance and Financial Advisor. "If anything is interstate commerce, it's healthcare."

Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler wrote the brief and 12 other attorneys general signed on from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In addition, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a separate amicus brief, saying that the individual mandate is an appropriate response to a pressing public policy problem. Moreover, health reform in Massachusetts, she said, has shown that prohibiting people who can afford insurance coverage from opting out and creating incentives for so-called "free riders" to join a health plan has helped increase public and private health plan membership, as well as increased access, use and quality of care, the Boston Herald reported.

"Congress could rationally have determined that a similar requirement on the federal level would have the same impact on the interstate market for health insurance," Coakley wrote.

She added that states can't control healthcare costs when most residents have insurance through their employers, which aren't bound by minimum coverage requirements that states may impose, noted the Herald. "There remains a limit to the structural changes Massachusetts--or any other State attempting to 'go it alone'--can effect in the healthcare marketplace," Coakley said.

To learn more:
- read the attorneys general amicus brief (.pdf)
- read Coakley's amicus brief (.pdf)
- read the Insurance and Financial Advisor article
- check out the Boston Herald article
- see the MedPage Today article (registration required)