For Immediate Release - February 22, 2012

AG Coakley Files Brief in U.S. Supreme Court in Support of Constitutionality of Health Care Reform

AG Coakley joins 11 other Attorneys General and the Governor of Washington

BOSTON – Attorney General Martha Coakley joins 11 other Attorneys General and the Governor of Washington in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the constitutionality of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and urging the high court to uphold the landmark law.

“There has long been a functioning and collaborative state-federal partnership on Medicaid programs and this move by Congress does not change that,” AG Coakley said.  “The expansion of Medicaid under the ACA does not take away the freedom states have historically had in implementing their own Medicaid programs within federal requirements.”

In August 2011, a divided United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act were unconstitutional but upheld other aspects of the law.  The parties appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments in the matter in March 2012. 

At issue in the latest round of briefing is whether Congress overstepped its authority by expanding Medicaid and by requiring the states to implement that expansion or forego federal funding.

AG Coakley, joined 11 other Attorneys General and the Governor of Washington, arguing that the Medicaid expansion is constitutional, and that Congress has not overstepped its authority or “coerced” the States by enacting the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.  As explained in the brief, Medicaid has always been a cooperative partnership between the States and the federal government, and the ACA does nothing to change that.

“In a cooperative federalist program, the federal government establishes the program’s core requirements and gives the States the freedom to implement their own programs within those requirements.  The ACA’s Medicaid expansion does not change that fundamental arrangement, and it is entirely consistent with the history of the program.  While expanding Medicaid’s basic eligibility standards, the ACA does not disturb the States’ autonomy and freedom to experiment that has always been a hallmark of the program,” the amicus brief states.

The ACA is a comprehensive national solution to the nation’s healthcare crisis that allows the States to substantially expand and improve health insurance coverage, and the Medicaid expansion is a critically important component of the new law.  The ACA continues the tradition of State flexibility and experimentation that has been the hallmark of the program.  The ACA thus strikes an appropriate, and constitutional, balance between national requirements that will expand access to affordable healthcare and state flexibility to design programs that achieve that goal.

In January 2012, AG Coakley filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the successful results from the Massachusetts health care law enacted in 2006 demonstrate that Congress had a rational and constitutional basis to enact an individual coverage requirement in ACA.  Earlier this month, in remarks before the National Press Club in Washington D.C., AG Coakley argued that the Individual Mandate provision of Massachusetts health care reform – that all who can afford it purchase health insurance – is a vital component of the ACA and constitutional under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

AG Coakley joins Attorneys General from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Vermont, and the Governor of Washington in the filing Friday’s brief.

View a copy of the amicus brief.


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