Stateline Story

Another Federal Judge Upholds Health Law

  • February 25, 2011
  • By Christine Vestal

SCORE-3 to 2: Judge Gladys Kessler of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia this week became the third judge to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Two other federal judges have struck down a key provision called the individual mandate, which requires most Americans to purchase health coverage starting in 2014. One of those judges, in a case filed in Florida , ruled that the entire law was invalid. The Justice Department last week asked the judge to clarify his ruling because states were confused about whether they must continue implementing the law. The case, which pits 26 states against the federal government, is likely to be decided in the U.S. Supreme Court.

KILLING MEDICAID: Texas lawmakers were the first to come up with the idea, but Arizona lawmakers this week became the first to vote on an option every state has — eliminating Medicaid within its borders. A bill approved by Arizona's Senate Appropriations Committee would end the 30-year-old safety-net program that covers more than 1.3 million Arizonans. According to an article in The Arizona Republic , Governor Jan Brewer opposes the initiative. Her Medicaid director, Tom Betlach, said, "The economic devastation that would result from the sudden elimination of $7 billion in federal participation would be crippling." Texas lawmakers came to a similar conclusion.

CHEAP INSURANCE: Florida , New Jersey , Ohio and Tennessee recently got federal waivers allowing insurance companies to continue offering low-cost insurance plans that don't comply with the Affordable Care Act. That's according to Obama administration testimony in Congress last week, reported by The New York Times . Under the new law, health plans must provide at least $750,000 in coverage for essential benefits like hospital care, doctors' visits and prescription drugs. The low-cost plans don't do that. The four states had to show that complying with the law would cause "a significant increase in premiums or a decrease in access to benefits," The Times reported.

NOT IN ALASKA:  Alaska 's Republican Governor Sean Parnell told the Obama administration last week that his state would not implement the health care reform law because it had been declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in Florida. Although 25 other states also came out on the winning side of that case, Alaska is the only state refusing to comply with the law. "The state of Alaska will not pursue unlawful activity to implement a federal health care regime that has been declared unconstitutional by a federal court," The Fairbanks News Miner reported Parnell saying.   As for some $14.7 million in federal money the state has received to implement the new law, Parnell told reporters that if Washington wants the money back, he'll be happy to return it, the Anchorage Daily News reported .