Bill Ketron (File photo)
NASHVILLE – A long list of state senators in Tennessee are among 77 lawmakers, the state of Florida, 25 other states, and the National Federation of Independent Business have joined in filing as amicus parties challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
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 those who have signed on to the action.
The individual mandate, which is the centerpiece of the federal law, is the requirement that almost all people in the United States buy health insurance or pay a penalty to the Interal Revenue Service for failing to do so.
The brief was filed Thursday with the U.S. Supreme Court in preparation for the oral arguments scheduled for March 27 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,” Ramsey said. “It is time that states push back to let Washington, D.C. know that we are not going to stand by idly when this health care law so blatantly infringes on the constitutional rights of the states and the personal freedoms of our citizens.”
Norris said this is one of the most important issues to be considered by the court in recent memory.
“States' rights, individual liberties and our ability to keep the federal government from infringing on those rights are at stake,” he said.
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson heard the case in Florida and declared the law unconstitutional Jan. 31, 2011. In his ruling, Vinson struck down the entire law, finding the individual mandate violated the Commerce Clause of the Constitution and could not be separated from the rest of the law.
On March 8, 2011, the federal 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." That ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court, which announced Nov. 14, 2011 that it will hear the appeal.
The case is especially important to Tennessee and several other states because legislators have enacted Health Care Freedom Acts.
The Tennessee Health Freedom Act, passed in 2011, provides that every person in the state is free to choose or not choose, any mode of securing health care services, to purchase or not purchase health insurance, without penalty or threat of penalty.
Tennessee lawmakers have consistently asserted the state has a right to protect the freedom of its residents under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which is being emphasized in the amicus curiae brief filed Thursday.
“Our personal health care decisions should be managed by us and our health care providers, not politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.,” Beavers said. “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.”