July 28--Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked a federal judge Friday to allow the state's lawsuit against the national health care law to proceed.
Pruitt also asked U.S. District Judge Ronald White of the Eastern District in Oklahoma to give the state time to address last month's U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act.
The high court ruled that the law, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. Justices said that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance, and a majority agreed that the penalty that someone must pay for refusing to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its power of taxation.
Pruitt filed his lawsuit in January 2011, shortly after taking office, in federal court in Muskogee. It seeks to have parts of the health care law ruled unconstitutional to prevent the entire law from being enforced. White issued a stay on the lawsuit until the U.S. Supreme Court decided the other lawsuit filed by Florida and 25 other states.
"The Supreme Court agreed with Oklahoma's claims that the Commerce Clause does not give the federal government power to compel Americans to buy a product, but in the process, the court found the individual mandate to be a new tax, which now raises significant questions about its validity as a revenue-raising measure," Pruitt said.
"This is a critical issue for Oklahoma residents and businesses, so we are asking the court to lift the stay and give us 30 days to determine the next step."
Pruitt said his office is reviewing several aspects of the health care law and tax, including a new rule by the Internal Revenue Service. The rule contradicts a provision in the health care law that keeps businesses from being taxed for lack of employee insurance coverage in states such as Oklahoma, where a state-run health insurance exchange has not been created.
The exchange is a state-based marketplace, where residents would shop for private health insurance products. It is a component of the federal health care law.
Attorneys in his office also are assessing the effect of the Supreme Court's ruling on Oklahoma's constitutional amendment that prohibits any government from requiring Oklahomans to buy health insurance, Pruitt said. Voters in November 2010 passed State Question 756; it got 64.7 percent of the vote.
"This lawsuit has never been about health care," Pruitt said. "It is about the limits of the federal government under the spirit and letter of the Constitution, and whether they have exceeded those limits through this act."
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