States File Brief Against Medicaid Expansion in Supreme Court Health Law Challenge

by Rebecca Farley on January 12, 2012

Court RulingThis week, the 26 states who have joined in a Supreme Court challenge to the Affordable Care Act filed a brief outlining their argument that the law’s 2014 Medicaid expansion is an unconstitutional infringement on state power. The states argue that through the Medicaid expansion, the federal government is essentially coercing them into covering new people by threatening to withhold federal Medicaid funds unless they do so.

Many legal experts agree that because states’ participation in Medicaid is voluntary, it does not constitute “coercion” for the federal government to attach requirements about how the funding is used. However, the states argue that participation in Medicaid “[is] not truly voluntary… While some individuals are exempt from the penalties designed to enforce the [ACA’s individual] mandate, no State is exempt from the massive penalty — the loss of the entirety of funding under the single largest grant-in-aid programs for the States — and so Congress did not even contemplate the possibility of a State opting out of Medicaid.”

The Obama Administration will have until February 10 to reply with a brief of its own in preparation for the oral arguments slated to be held in March. The states and the Administration have already submitted briefs outlining their arguments on the constitutionality of the individual mandate and whether the law can stand if the mandate is struck down.

Meanwhile, nearly 500 state legislators (at least one legislator from every state, including the 26 states that are signed on to the challenge) will file a brief with the Supreme Court today in support of the law’s mandate that all individuals have health insurance. The legislators argue that “the [Commerce clause of the Constitution] does not limit ‘commerce’ to existing economic activity or trade, nor does the text’s use of ‘regulate’ imply a power to prohibit but not require certain conduct.” The full summary of the legislators’ arguments is available here.


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