Earlier this week, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller joined a lawsuit seeking to declare new health insurance laws unconstitutional. He is one of 13 attorneys general – 12 of them Republican — arguing new law’s requirement that all citizens have health insurance violates the Constitution’s commerce clause.
But some in the legal community are questioning the timing and political nature of the suit.
Zoeller says he believes the health insurance industry needs reform – just not the kind offered by new health insurance laws that, estimates show, will extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans within five years.
“As far as we can determine never before have individuals been required to buy insurance as a condition of being alive,” said Bryan Corbin, Zoeller spokesman. “This is not like car insurance where it’s a privilege to drive.”
Legal Precedents Likely to Derail Suit
But IUPUI Law Professor and former State Representative David Orentlicher says legal precedents indicate the lawsuit will likely fail.
“Well I think it’s more a political statement than a statement on the merits of the constitutional claims. In fact, we’ve had a mandate to buy health insurance for 45 years in the form of Medicare,” Orentlicher said.
Corbin says work on the suit is being conducted in-house at no additional cost to the state. But Zoeller’s office, and by extension, Indiana taxpayers, will have to share a 50-thousand dollar legal contract associated with the suit. Corbin says the lawsuit could go on for several years, meaning that cost will only grow.
“He himself, Mr. Zoeller himself, is not declaring to the law to unconstitutional. He can’t do that. That’s not his job. Only the U.S. Supreme Court can do that,” Corbin said. “He is pointing out, however, as many legal scholars have, that the legislation does some serious constitutional questions regarding Congressional authority.”
But Orentlicher says the effort could be considered conservative judicial activism – not a serious challenge of the new law.
“It’s hard to see a court overturning this. I’m sure they’ll do their court shopping and look for the most conservative judge who has the narrowest view of the commerce clause [of the U.S. Constitution],” Orentlicher said. “The Constitution says Congress may regulate interstate commerce, and the health insurance industry is an interstate business.”
While multi-state suit was announced minutes after President Obama signed the provisions into law, Zoeller took a week to ponder his decision. In the meantime, Governor Mitch Daniels weighed in, saying he thought Zoeller should jump on board. But the attorney general says his decision to sue on behalf of all Hoosiers was his own decision.