The number of states represented in a multi-state challenge to provisions of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act could climb to 26.
Plaintiffs in the multi-state lawsuit this past Tuesday filed a motion requesting to add six additional states to the case: Iowa, Ohio, Kansas, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Maine.
Washington is one of the original 20 states that filed in March 2010 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, alleging the health care act is an unprecedented and unconstitutional requirement that all Americans must obtain or purchase private health care insurance or face a fine; and that the massive expansion of the Medicaid program will unconstitutionally require states to spend billions more at a time when state budgets are already in crisis.
"Forcing all U.S. citizens to obtain a commercial product in the private market with their own money is an unprecedented and unconstitutional move by the federal government," said Attorney General Rob McKenna.
"We need health care reform that's constitutional and actually reduces the financial burden on our citizens and our states. That is why I joined this lawsuit on behalf of Washingtonians and that is why states continue to join us," McKenna said yesterday.
The states presented their case before U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson in Florida on Dec. 16, 2010. Vinson indicated he hoped to rule soon but did not offer a specific timeline.
The state of Virginia has mounted its own separate challenges to the new law and Oklahoma has announced its intention to do the same. U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson for the Eastern District of Virginia in December sided with Virginia in finding the individual mandate unconstitutional.
President Barack Obama has a different take on the health care act he helped to enact. In a statement he made yesterday, Obama said the American people have greater health security than they did a year ago.
"Because of the Affordable Care Act, Americans no longer have to live in fear that insurance companies will drop or cap their coverage if they get sick, or that they'll face double-digit premium increases with no accountability or recourse.
"Small businesses across the country can take advantage of a new health care tax credit to offer coverage to their employees, and children suffering from an illness or pre-existing condition can no longer be denied coverage," Obama said.
"Parents now can add their adult children up to age 26 to their health plans, and all Americans on new plans can access preventive care to keep them healthy with no additional out of pocket costs.
"Older Americans are seeing better benefits, lower prescription drug costs and a stronger Medicare. And the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reports that improvements in the health care delivery system as a result of this law will reduce federal deficits by over a trillion dollars in the next two decades," Obama continued.
Obama added that he's willing and eager to work with both Democrats and Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act. "But we can't go backward. Americans deserve the freedom and security of knowing that insurance companies can't deny, cap or drop their coverage when they need it the most, while taking meaningful steps to curb runaway health care costs," he said.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius yesterday released a new analysis that backs up Obama's claims. The analysis shows that without the Affordable Care Act up to 3 million non-elderly Washington state residents who have some type of pre-existing health condition, like heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis or cancer, would be at risk of losing health insurance when they need it most, or be denied coverage altogether. Across the country, up to 129 million Americans would be at risk, she said.
Sebelius said under the full range of policies in the Affordable Care Act to be enacted by 2014, Americans living with pre-existing conditions are free from discrimination and can get the health coverage they need, and families are free from the worry of having their insurance cancelled or capped when a family member gets sick, or going broke because of the medical costs of an accident or disease.
Repealing the law, she said, would once again leave millions of Americans worrying about whether coverage will be there when they need it.
"The Affordable Care Act is stopping insurance companies from discriminating against Americans with pre-existing conditions and is giving us all more freedom and control over our health care decisions," said Sebelius. "The new law is already helping to free Americans from the fear that an insurer will drop, limit or cap their coverage when they need it most. And Americans living with pre-existing conditions are being freed from discrimination in order to get the health coverage they need."