by Jeremy Leaming
The slew of states challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid to cover more of the nation’s poorest, has failed to articulate why the U.S. Supreme Court should invalidate Congress’s expansion of the popular program, SEIU and other labor groups assert in a recently filed friend-of-the-court brief.
Plenty of attention has been given to the landmark health care reform law’s minimum coverage provision. That provision requires Americans, who can afford to do so, to purchase a minimum amount of health care insurance starting in 2014 or pay a penalty on their income tax returns. Indeed this recent panel sponsored by SCOTUSblog and BloombergLaw focused almost entirely on the legal challenge to the minimum coverage provision, which in all fairness is the law’s integral provision.
But the amicus brief in Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services filed by SEIU and Change to Win, a federation of four labor unions, argues that if the challengers’ argument were adopted by the court it would greatly limit the ability of the Congress to tax and spend for the general welfare. (SEIU is the country’s largest healthcare union, and the unions that make up Change to Win represent more than 5 million workers.)
The labor groups assert that the states challenging the expansion of Medicaid are not questioning the constitutionality of Medicaid, but are trying to scuttle lawmakers’ expansion of the popular program. The challengers, the labor groups argue, claim that they are being unconstitutionally coerced into offering the expanded Medicaid program (primarily because Medicaid is so popular that the states could not opt-out of offering it), but fail “to identify some constitutionally relevant and judicially manageable distinction between the pre-existing federal spending program and the expanded program they challenge.”
The states’ challenge to the expansion of Medicaid, which is also important to the law’s goal of providing more health care insurance to the tens of millions of uninsured, is aimed directly at “Congress’ power to spend federal money on those programs (and only those programs) that Congress deem worthy of support,” the labor groups’ brief states.