Attorney General joins federal lawsuit challenging health care mandate

DENVER — Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced today he will join with nearly a dozen other state attorneys general to challenge the constitutionality of the individual health care mandate in the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“The United State Constitution enshrines a form of limited government to protect the rights of the states under a system of federalism and to protect the individual freedom of American citizens. The individual mandate to purchase insurance or suffer economic sanction violates constitutional principles and lacks constitutional authority,” Suthers said. “The Constitution gives Congress the enumerated powers to regulate those engaged in interstate commerce. It does not give the Congress the power to compel a citizen, who would otherwise choose to be inactive in the marketplace, to purchase a product or service and thereby become subject to congressional regulation. Such an expansion of the current understanding of the Commerce Clause would leave no private sphere of individual commercial decision making beyond the reach of the federal government. It would render the 10th Amendment meaningless.”

The lawsuit also will challenge the constitutionality of the penalties included in the legislation for individuals that decide to forgo purchasing health insurance. Although government can tax commercial activity, this law would constitute a tax on an individual’s commercial inactivity and not on the states’ populations or another concrete metric. Such a tax would not be apportioned between the states, as required under the Commerce Clause. The courts, too, have established that Congress cannot exercise its tax powers to “coerce’ individuals or businesses.

The Office of the Attorney General is vested with the inherent authority to act and enter lawsuits concerning the general welfare of the state, People of the State of Colorado, ex rel Salazar v. Davidson, 79 P. 3d 1221, 1231 (2003).

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