Rule of Law

Missouri Democrats join court battle over healthcare overhaul


Friday, January 13, 2012

WASHINGTON – Three dozen Missouri House Democrats have joined state lawmakers from around the country urging the Supreme Court to uphold the Obama administration’s health insurance law.

The Missourians are among 518 state legislators from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico who submitted a brief on Thursday arguing that mandating health insurance for all Americans is within the power of Congress.

“Stated simply, the framers of our founding charter came to the drafting table with the aim of giving the federal government power to provide national solutions to national problems,” their advisory brief read.

The new year has brought a renewed focus on the health insurance law and a sharpening of arguments for and against. Oral arguments are scheduled in the Supreme Court for March 26-28; an election-year ruling is expected by early summer.

Federal courts have issued conflicting rulings about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Among the key questions are whether Congress exceeded its powers in mandating that virtually every American have health insurance and whether the mandate can be severed from the rest of the law.

Missouri was among states robustly represented in the legal brief organized by the Progressive States Network, the Working Group of State Legislators for Health Reform and the Constitutional Accountability Center. Only Maine, Minnesota, Connecticut and Georgia matched Missouri’s involvement in the brief. By contrast, just two Illinoisans signed the document, Sen. William Delgado and Rep. Mary Flowers, both Chicagoans.

Among the many Missouri signers are House Minority Leader Mike Talboy of Kansas City and Assistant Minority Leader Tishaura Jones of St. Louis.

Jones said this morning that the new law is important to her constituents, particularly the provisions that prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and allow young people to remain on their parents policies until age 26.

“It’s not perfect, but I think it’s a good start to deal with the system we have,” said Jones, who is a candidate for St. Louis treasurer.

Their brief echoes another filed by the Obama administration’s Justice Department arguing that the Constitution gives Congress wide authority to regulate interstate commerce.

“Our Constitution establishes a vibrant system of federalism that gives broad power to the federal government to act in circumstances in which a national approach is necessary or preferable, while reserving a significant role for the states to craft innovative policy solutions reflecting the diversity of America’s people, places, and ideas,” the state legislators wrote.

Other Missourians are participating on the opposite side of the case.

Sen. Roy Blunt was among Republican senators signing a brief on Jan. 6, submitted by their St. Louis counsel, James Bennett, of Dowd Bennett.

Harking back to the debate in Congress before passage, the GOP senators brief contended that the law is premised on the mandate to purchase insurance.

“More than merely a component of the insurance reforms, the majority in Congress believed that the entire health care reform effort of the (legislation) was unsustainable without it,” the amicus brief asserts.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, was among 27 House members who signed a brief last week organized by the Family Research Council. Their filing argues that various provisions of the law “impair family autonomy regarding health care choices, coerce individual decision-making, fund abortions and make health care less affordable for families.”