PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — The Justice Department asked a federal judge in Florida on Thursday to tell states that they must continue to enact the Obama administration’s health care overhaul despite the judge’s ruling that the law is unconstitutional.
In a motion to clarify, administration attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson to make clear that states cannot ignore the new health care laws while his ruling is being appealed.
At stake, according to the government’s motion, are provisions of the new law that will create chaos if ignored by the states.
Those provisions include 2011 changes in Medicare payment rates. Delaying those changes "could cause major delays and errors in the payment of the roughly 100 million Medicare claims processed each month," the motion states.
Florida and 25 other states filed the lawsuit that said Congress exceeded its authority by requiring all citizens to purchase health insurance or face tax penalties.
Vinson agreed, ruling on Jan. 31 that President Barack Obama’s entire health care overhaul law is unconstitutional. The broad challenge seems certain to be resolved only by the Supreme Court.
He declared the law "a plain case of judicial overreaching." Some states, citing Vinson’s ruling, have refused to cooperate with the health care law.
The Justice Department in effect is saying in its filing that it does not need to argue that the judge temporarily suspend his ruling.
The administration says that even with it, all states in the lawsuit already have an obligation to comply with all the provisions of the Affordable Care Act while the case is being appealed.
In his original opinion, the judge said otherwise, arguing that he did not need to issue an order stopping the law from being implemented because he declared it unconstitutional.
"We believe it is important to put to rest any doubts about the ability of states and other parties to continue to implement these critical programs and consumer protections provided under this statute," said Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler.
The issue is expected to be resolved by the Supreme Court. Two other U.S. district judges previously upheld the law, both Democratic appointees to the federal bench.
A Republican appointee in Virginia also ruled against the law. Vinson’s ruling is considered the most sweeping against the health overhaul. He was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan.
E-mails to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office were not immediately answered late Thursday.