Florida Republicans try to expand fight against insurance mandates

Republicans in the Florida House of Representatives are going all out to support Attorney General Bill McCollum's ever-expanding lawsuit to stop the federal government from requiring individuals to either purchase health insurance or pay a fine. The GOP has added an amendment to House Bill 885 that would declare the federal insurance mandate illegal under Florida law and allow McCollum to incorporate into his lawsuit any individual Florida citizens who want to go to court.

The bill, which has been sent to the House floor for a vote, states that Floridians "...consistent with our constitutionally recognized and inalienable rights of liberty...shall be free from governmental intrusion in choosing or declining to choose any mode of securing health insurance coverage without penalty or threat of penalty."

This latest salvo follows an announcement by McCollum that Indiana, North Dakota, Mississippi, Nevada and Arizona have joined Florida and 12 other states (South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington, Idaho and South Dakota) in their constitutional challenge of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which was filed March 23 in the federal court's Northern District of Florida. Three additional states are weighing the merits of joining the multi-state lawsuit, and Virginia has filed its own separate suit, reports Forbes.

Republicans nationwide are promoting legal challenges to the insurance mandate under a "will of the people" scenario. However, revoking the insurance mandate while leaving other PPACA insurance provisions in place (e.g., not allowing insurers to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions) would drive up premiums and make health insurance less affordable for most Americans, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

AGs in Georgia and Ohio are among those who so far have publicly declined to join the Florida lawsuit despite intense pressure from state Republicans. Oklahoma AG Drew Edmondson is the latest to say no, calling the lawsuit "a very likely fruitless exercise to attack a bill on grounds with relatively little merit," reports the Tulsa World. However, the issue is not yet resolved because the Oklahoma Legislature is currently considering a bill that would direct Edmondson to file suit.

The legal challenges are unlikely to prove fruitful because the mandate "is consistent with the past 73 years of broad constitutional interpretation, which has granted Congress the authority to regulate nearly anything," says Ryan Lirett, an attorney with The American Enterprise Institute attorney, at Gov Monitor. Further, the Department of Justice has committed to "vigorously defend the constitutionality of the healthcare reform statute, along with any other claims, in any litigation that is brought against the United States," a spokeswoman tells Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

To learn more about the proposed Florida bill:
- read the St. Petersburg Times article or the Miami Herald article

To learn more about which states have joined the Florida lawsuit:
- read the Florida AG's press release
- read this Forbes blog post
- read this Bloomberg BusinessWeek article

For information on the probability of success of pending lawsuits:
- read this Gov Monitor post

For information on the Oklahoma AG's decision not to file suit:
- read the Tulsa World article

To learn about the likely effect of revoking the insurance mandate:
- read the CBPP report