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Background and Timeline

  • December 2009:  Attorney General McKenna joins several state attorneys general in expressing concerns over provisions in the Senate health care bill that appear to violate our federal Constitution. At this point, the states are primarily concerned about the special arrangement in the proposal which permanently exempted Nebraska from paying its share of the additional Medicaid costs mandated by the bill. However, the states also indicate they have other legal or constitutional concerns with certain provisions of the legislation. The “Cornhusker kickback” is ultimately removed before the bill passed.
  • March 22, 2010: After notifying Governor Chris Gregoire of his decision, McKenna formally announces his intent to join other states in challenging the federal health care reform law's requirement that all Americans lacking health insurance purchase a government-approved product in the private marketplace. The suit also challenges the constitutionality of the massive expansion of the Medicaid program in the states.
  • March 23, 2010: McKenna joins fellow AGs in a  multi-state, bi-partisan lawsuit challenging provisions that expand federal authority beyond what the states believe is allowed under the U.S. Constitution. Florida AG Bill McCollum files the suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.  To date 26 states have joined: Florida, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota,  Texas, Utah, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Washington.  
  • May 2010: The National Federation of Independent Business and several individuals join the suit.
  • Dec. 16, 2010: Judge Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida hears arguments on the merits of the multistate case. (see documents)
  • Jan. 31, 2011: Vinson sides with the 26 states, finding that Congress exceeded its Constitutional authority in approving a new health care mandate requiring all U.S. citizens to have or purchase health insurance or face a fine. In his ruling, Judge Vinson says that because the mandate is tied so closely to the rest of the law, the entire law should be nullified.
  • March 3, 2011: Judge Vinson rules on a motion for clarification filed by the federal Department of Justice, restating his earlier ruling that the entire law was nullified when he ruled the individual mandate was unconstitutional and clarifying that this ruling meant the federal government was to cease implementation. He expresses frustration with the Department of Justice's failure to act more quickly to respond to his ruling. He adds he will grant a stay of his decision if the federal government files a notice of appeal within seven days and agrees to seek expedited review.
  • June 8, 2011: 11th Circuit Court of Appeals hears oral arguments in Atlanta. 
  • August 12, 2011: 11th Circuit issues a 2-1 opinion, ruling the federal government may not force individuals to purchase government-approved health insurance in the private marketplace. 

    The ruling upholds in part the Vinson decision ruling the so-called individual mandate unconstitutional.  However, in its 304-page decision, the majority differed with Vinson on the issue of whether the entire act should be nullified, ruling instead that the individual mandate could be struck down without declaring the entire act unconstitutional.
  • Sept. 28, 2011:The 26 states challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case in its upcoming term.
  • Nov. 14, 2011: The US Supreme Court announces it will hear the multistate lawsuit challenging the federal health care law.
  • March 26, 2012:  The US Supreme Court hears one hour of oral argument on the jurisdictional issue of whether the federal Anti-Injunction Act bars challenges to the mandate requiring all individuals to have or purchase government-approved health insurance in the private market.
  • March 27, 2012: The US Supreme Court hears two hours of oral argument limited to the issue of whether the mandate is constitutional.
  • March 28, 2012:  The Court hears 90 minutes of oral argument on the issue of severability-- whether portions of the new law may be struck down as unconstitutional while leaving the balance of the act intact.  The court also hears one hour of oral argument on the constitutionality of the law's substantial expansion of Medicaid.
  • June 28, 2012: The US Supreme Court upholds most of the Affordable Care Act--including the requirement that people who do not have health insurance coverage pay a tax if they do not obtain insurance approved by the federal government.  While the majority of the Court agrees with the states that the mandate violates the Commerce clause, the Court ultimately rules that the mandate is constitutional under Congress’s taxing power.

    The Court strikes down the provision allowing the federal government to withhold from states existing Medicaid funds if states choose not to expand Medicaid as envisioned under the law, saying "Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use. What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding."
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