Supreme Court Refuses to Speed up Health Law Challenge; Vermont approves overhaul

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, one of the most vocal opponents of last year's health care law, lost a bid Monday (April 25) to bypass lower courts and take his case directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. The same day, the Vermont Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill creating a state-run universal health care system, the kind of program that many conservatives consider anathema.

Cuccinelli said he was disappointed by the decision but not surprised, since the Supreme Court does not regularly agree to take cases directly from federal district courts, according to The Wall Street Journal . Cuccinelli filed a challenge to the health care overhaul on March 23, 2010, the day President Obama signed it into law. U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson ruled in Cuccinelli's favor that the law was unconstitutional, triggering an appeals process. The U.S. Department of Justice, which is defending the law, had argued in favor of following the usual appeals court process. Appeals courts in several states are getting ready to hear challenges to the law, and the Supreme Court could still take up one of them in the months ahead.

The federal law and the lawsuits surrounding it have revealed a dramatic difference of opinion among states over how to best offer health insurance. More than two dozen states have challenged the law, arguing against increased government intervention in health care. Vermont is not one of them. Instead, officials in Vermont are pushing to go beyond the federal law and offer state-managed universal health care to its citizens. The Vermont Senate's 21-8 preliminary vote follows a vote in the House of Representatives to create a state insurance program, writes the Burlington Free Press . Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, supports the measure, which would be rolled out over several years.

Opponents of the Vermont bill said it would double the state's deficit and force the state into obligations it would be impossible to get out of. Shumlin, however, in a December interview with Stateline , said a state system would save money by taking private insurers out of the market, reducing costs on small businesses and freeing up doctors from the constraints of paperwork.