(NASHVILLE, TN), February 13, 2012 – A long list of State Senators in Tennessee, including Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville), Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson (R-Hixson) and Senate Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) are among 77 Tennessee lawmakers, the State of Florida, 25 other states, and the National Federation of Independent Business in filing as amicus parties (friends of the court) challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The individual mandate, which is the centerpiece of the new law, is the requirement that almost all people in the United States buy health insurance or pay a penalty to the IRS for failing to do so.
The brief was filed with the Supreme Court today in preparation for the oral arguments scheduled for March 27th and is one of a multitude of briefs filed laying out the unconstitutionality of individual mandates.
“The White House plan will stifle innovation and actually increase the cost of insurance,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “It is time that states push back to let Washington know that we are not going to stand by idly when this healthcare law so blatantly infringes on the constitutional rights of the states and the personal freedoms of our citizens.”
“This is one of the most important issues to be considered by the Court in our lifetime,” said Leader Norris. “State’s rights, individual liberties and our ability to keep the federal government from infringing those rights are at stake.”
“Our personal health care decisions should be managed by us and our health care providers, not politicians and bureaucrats in Washington,” said Chairman Beavers. “Never in our history has the U.S. government required its citizens as a condition of residency to purchase a particular product from a private company or government entity.”
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson heard the case in Florida and declared the law unconstitutional on January 31, 2011. In his ruling, Vinson struck down the entire law after finding the individual mandate violated the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, and that the mandate could not be separated from the rest of the law. On March 8, 2011, the government filed a notice of appeal with the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The appeals court also found the individual mandate unconstitutional, but ruled the individual mandate to be severable from the rest of the law, and found the remaining provisions “legally operative.” The Court of Appeals’ ruling was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which announced on November 14, 2011 that it will hear the appeal.
The case is especially important to Tennessee and several other states because these states have enacted Health Care Freedom Acts. The Tennessee Health Freedom Act, passed in 2011, provides that every person in Tennessee is free to choose, or not choose, any mode of securing healthcare services, and to purchase or not purchase health insurance, without penalty or threat of penalty. Tennessee asserts this right to protect the freedom of its citizens under the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution. This principle is emphasized in the amicus curiae brief filed today.
Another key provision under consideration by the nation’s high court is the constitutionality of the Medicaid amendments. The case from Florida says the federal healthcare act exceeds the enumerated powers by creating such a major expansion of the Medicaid program.