The lawsuit Indiana joined two years ago challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law was heard today by the United States Supreme Court. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller was in the courtroom audience this morning for the arguments in the historic case, and later today met with U.S. Senator Richard G. Lugar. A report and analysis Zoeller prepared at Lugar's request in early 2010 on the health care legislation found that the bill's individual mandate was constitutionally suspect -- a legal argument the Supreme Court is hearing this week in the closely-watched lawsuit.
"The historic significance of this case could be felt in the courthouse today, the same courtroom that has heard so many other landmark cases. This constitutional challenge could determine the limits of the federal government's authority over states and individuals, a challenge that deserves the full attention of the Supreme Court of the United States," Zoeller said.
"Obamacare is wrong for America. The future economic success of our country, as well as the quality of health care provided to Americans, will be deeply affected by whether we succeed in overturning Obamacare, either legislatively or judicially," Lugar said. "As an early opponent of Obamacare, I supported every Congressional effort to derail, defeat and defund the proposal. On January 5, 2010, I asked Attorney General Zoeller to review the constitutionality of the proposal, which lead to Indiana joining other states in challenging the federal law in court. I appreciate the Attorney's General's enormous leadership."
Indiana is one of 26 states that filed the legal challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) shortly after it became law in March 2010, contending the federal mandate that individuals purchase a private insurance product or face a fine is unconstitutional. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) also is a plaintiff. The PPACA was found unconstitutional at the U.S. District Court level and portions were found unconstitutional at the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Both the plaintiffs and federal government defendants appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which today heard the first of three days of oral argument in the case -- the longest amount of oral argument the Court has allotted to one case in 46 years.
While the health care bill still was pending in early 2010, Senator Lugar invoked a little-known state law, Indiana Code 4-6-8-2, that allows a member of Congress to request that the state Attorney General prepare a report and analysis on a Congressional bill. Zoeller's 55-page report to Lugar found constitutional flaws with the PPACA's mandate that individuals purchase a commercial health insurance product or pay a fine -- one of the plaintiff states' key objections to the law in the challenge they filed weeks later.
At a news conference with Senator Lugar today, Zoeller noted the Indiana Attorney General's Office has paid no legal fees and no outside legal expenses to participate in the multistate legal challenge during the litigation and appeal.
"The case is about much more than health care, no one honestly disagrees that we need reform of our system. But I would hope those who support the Affordable Care Act would also agree that we cannot build a national system on a statute that may be unconstitutional. My goal from the outset was to bring this issue before the Supreme Court," Zoeller said.
Today the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether the states can bring a challenge prior to most of the law taking effect in 2014. Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement represents the 26 states. Oral argument resumes Tuesday when the Supreme Court will hear from attorneys debating the constitutionality of the individual mandate. Wednesday morning the Court will hear arguments on "severability," whether other parts of the PPACA could remain intact if the individual mandate were struck down. Wednesday afternoon the Court will consider whether the PPACA's requirement that states dramatically expand their Medicaid programs is unconstitutionally coercive. The Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision on the legal challenge by June.