Federal court urged to dismiss Oklahoma challenge to health care law

[JURIST] Attorneys for the federal government on Monday filed a motion [text, PDF] with the US District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma [official website] to dismiss a complaint challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [text; JURIST backgrounder]. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt [official website] had filed a suit in January against the federal health care law arguing that "Congress had exceeded its Article I powers by enacting the Act's minimum coverage provision. The Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of the US Department of Treasury principally claimed that Oklahoma lacks standing to bring suit and asked the court to dismiss the case. The reason underlying this argument was the principle that citizens of a state are also citizens of the US and therefore, a "State does not have standing as a parens patriae to bring an action on behalf of its citizens against the federal government because the federal government is presumed to represent the State's citizens." The attorneys condemned Oklahoma for its attempt to deny its citizens rights to which they are entitled under federal law. They estimated that around 38,000 Oklahoma citizens will benefit from the premium tax credits under the PPACA.

In September Oklahoma amended [JURIST report] its complaint [text, PDF] following the US Supreme Court [official website] decision in June holding that the PPACA is constitutional [JURIST report], interpreting the government-imposed fees for individuals who fail to purchase health insurance as a tax rather than a criminal penalty. In maintaining the constitutional challenge, the new complaint added a challenge to the new IRS regulations that were put in place to carry out the law. Oklahoma argued that the Supreme Court's interpretation does not preempt a 2010 amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution [text] ensuring that Oklahoma citizens cannot be compelled by government to purchase health insurance. In July AG Pruitt filed a motion asking the federal court to lift a stay on the state's challenge [JURIST report] to the federal health care law.

 

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