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PPACA: Sebelius Responds To Constitutionality Suit

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Kathleen Sebelius says Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli got the list of defendants wrong when he sued to block Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) health coverage ownership requirements.

Cuccinelli persuaded U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson, a judge in the U.S. District Court in Richmond, Va., to agree earlier this month to let him proceed with a suit arguing that requiring people and employers to own health insurance violates Americans’ constitutional rights.

Sebelius, Kathleen Sebelius secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has come out with an answer contending that Hudson should kill the suit because Cuccinelli sued the wrong person.

Sebelius says she does not believe that she is responsible for implementing the coverage mandates described in Section 1501 of PPACA, which is part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) package.

“The secretary of the Treasury is primarily responsible for the administration of the minimum coverage provision that the plaintiff seeks to challenge,” Sebelius says in the answer.

Cuccinelli has not listed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as a defendant in the suit, Cuccinelli vs. Sebelius, (Civil Action Number 3:10CV188-HEH).

Cuccinelli filed the suit March 23. He argued on behalf of Virginia that PPACA Section 1501 goes beyond the outer limits of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which permits

Congress to regulate interstate commerce, because “the failure–or refusal–of [Virginia] citizens to elect to purchase health insurance is not ‘economic activity’ and therefore not subject to federal regulation under the Commerce Clause,” Hudson writes in an opinion explaining his ruling.

Cuccinelli also has argued that PPACA Section 1501 conflicts with the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act.

Sebelius told the court it should dismiss the suit because PPACA Section 1501 is the “central ingredient of a complex health care regulatory scheme,” based on the belief that, at some point, every individual will need medical services, and that all individuals subject to the coverage ownership requirement ought to help reduce the amount of uncompensated medical services by purchasing health coverage.

Sebelius also has argued that PPACA Section 1501 is barred by the Anti-Injunction Act because it relies on the authority of Congress to use its taxing and spending power under the General Welfare Act, and that the question is not yet ripe for review because the PPACA Section 1501 will not take effect until 2014.

Hudson has ruled that the parties should file their motions for summary judgment in the PPACA case and supporting memoranda by Sept. 3, memoranda in opposition to the summary judgment motions by Sept. 23, and further memoranda supporting the summary judgment motions by Oct. 4.

Parties not directly involved in the case who want to file briefs should do so by Oct. 4, the judge says.


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