IFF entering national health care lawsuit with legal brief
The Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) is adding its voice to a lawsuit brought by 26 states, including Idaho, to throw out health care reform laws passed by Congress last year. The IFF sent a “friend of the court” letter, calling the laws unconstitutional, to the federal appeals court in Georgia that will hear the case in June.
“Congress asserts authority that extends far beyond the recognized limits of the enumerated powers granted to it by the Constitution,” the IFF said in the amicus curiae brief sent by Boise attorney Geoffrey Talmon.
Several hundred groups or individuals have sent similar letters to the court in support or opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010, often called Obamacare by some, including the plan's critics.
The IFF has supported several efforts at the state level to oppose the plan, including efforts to nullify the law in Idaho and the Idaho Health Freedom Act, which required Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to sue the federal government to block some of its provisions.
The multi-state lawsuit that Wasden is a part of focuses on the law's mandate that individuals purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty. Opponents say the mandate, which goes into effect in 2014, is unconstitutional. A federal district judge sided with the states, overturning the entire act, though he later ruled that the federal government can continue to implement the law as it works through the appeals process.
The health care law has many other provisions, including an expansion of Medicaid and changes to insurance regulations.
IFF's legal argument to the appeals court follows documents filed by the federal government arguing that the Idaho Health Freedom Act doesn't give Idaho the legal ability to sue to block the law. Attorneys for the Obama administration argue that states can't sue to protect its citizens from federal laws, which the IFF disagrees with.
“The Obama administration was contending that the state didn't have legal standing to argue against Obamacare,” said IFF Executive Director Wayne Hoffman. “What we were attempting to do was offer legal analysis that suggests that not only does the state have standing but reaffirm the fact that if Obamacare were allowed to stand, it would severely damage the state.”
In the legal brief, the IFF also contends the individual mandate to buy insurance crosses the line of constitutional power and said the law moves society “towards a presumption of servitude to the whims and desires of Congress.” The IFF also argues that Idaho lawmakers imposed fewer mandates for health coverage on insurance companies than any other states, and that parts of the law would curb state lawmakers' power.
It remains to be seen if the IFF's friend of the court letter will have any impact on the outcome of the lawsuit. “The idea is that an amicus curiae brief is to be designed to aid the court with information that it otherwise wouldn't have if it was just looking at the briefs of the parties,” said Richard Seamon, a University of Idaho law professor who worked as a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice and argued more than a dozen cases before the Supreme Court. “Over time, though, that's changed.”
Seamon said high profile cases like this one often get more than 100 such legal briefs and not all of them can influence a case. “I really, frankly doubt that the judges will read every one of those amicus briefs. It's simply too much. Many of them simply don't have that much to add to the mix.”
Many national associations, including health groups both for and against the reforms, have filed such letters. Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, who both voted against the law, joined other GOPs in the Senate in an amicus brief. Idaho's Indian tribes signed onto a letter from tribes around the country urging for the court to not throw out parts of the law that extend a health care program for Indians.
The federal appeals court in Georgia is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case in June. There are three other lawsuits over the law working their way though the courts, with the Obama administration holding a 2-2 record. Many observers, including Wasden, feel the case will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which could hear the case later this year or next year.
Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.