Once again urging a federal judge in Florida to narrow a sweeping decision against the new federal health care law, the Obama Administration on Monday said that a number of the states who won that challenge would lose substantial federal funds if the entire law is shut down.   In a new filing with U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, the Administration said many parts of the new law are already in operation, and no one has sorted out what would happen if Vinson were now to insist that no part of the law can be enforced.

The judge struck down all of the law on Jan. 31, but the Administration has told him that it does not believe he intended to stop enforcement of every part of the massive law — all 450 parts of it — while the government challenges his ruling in a coming appeal.    The states, as well as a private business group and two individuals, who successfully challenged the law have argued that the judge did, indeed, intend that the entire law is unenforceable right now.

Monday’s filing was the final document on the issue of the government’s plea for “clarification” — actually, a plea for a sharp narrowing — of the Jan. 31 decision.  The judge did not formally order the government to stop enforcing all of the law, but he indicated he did not do so because he expected the government would comply without such a direct judicial command.

The government, while definitely planning to appeal the decision to the Eleventh Circuit Court, has not yet asked that the ruling be blocked during that appeal.  Monday’s filing hinted that, if the judge does not pare down the ruling by “clarifying” it, the government is likely to then ask for it to be stayed — either by Vinson himself, or by the Circuit Court.

As part of the new argument Monday for a pared-down ruling, the Administration said there is considerable confusion among the states as to just what would be at stake if the entire law were stopped in its tracks now.  In fact, the document said, a number of the states are continuing to apply for, and receive, funds under the new law, and those could be at risk.

Since the judge’s ruling at the end of January, the new brief said, at least 24 of the 26 states who sued in Vinson’s court “have applied for additional grants authorized or appropriated” by the law, have “continued to draw down grant funds previously awarded” under it, or “otherwise availed themselves of resources made available” by the law.

The members of the private, small business group that joined the challenge, it added, are at risk of losing their right to claim tax credits authorized by the law.

In short, the government contended, the statements and actions of a number of the challengers actually support the government’s preferred view that Judge Vinson did not actually mean to interrupt all parts of the law, including the many parts of it that have already taken effect.

Judge Vinson has indicated that, once all of the legal filings were in on the  “clarification” plea, he would act on it promptly.

Posted in Cases in the Pipeline, Health Care

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, U.S.: Health care foes face losses, SCOTUSblog (Feb. 28, 2011, 8:38 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2011/02/u-s-health-care-foes-face-losses/