Fla challege to healthcare law goes to the U.S. Supreme Court

Tallahassee, FL – Florida's battle with the federal healthcare law is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Lynn Hatter reports the state, along with 25 others, wants the entire law thrown out because of a mandate that everyone purchase health insurance or face penalties.

Florida argues the part of the federal Affordable Healthcare Act requiring everyone to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. So far, several lower courts have issued opposing rulings on the question- with some siding with the state and others with the federal government. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi wants the U.S. Supreme Court to go a few steps further.

"We believe that if the mandate is unconstitutional, then the entire healthcare act is unconstitutional."

Only one lower court has accepted that argument. The others that have sided against the individual mandate have said the rest of the law can stand. Joining Florida in its lawsuit are 25 other states, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Karen Harned is the Executive Director of the small business legal center. She says the lawsuit goes beyond the issue of healthcare.

"If congress can require every American to buy health insurance or pay a fine, then what product can Congress not require each of us to buy. And they can't answer that question because there is no answer. The bottom line is, if the individual mandate is upheld, Congress will have no constitutional limits on what it can require us to buy."

Harned says health insurance cost has been an issue with her group for more than two decades. But she argues the federal law has not improved the situation.

"You saw a Kaiser family foundation report yesterday indicating that premiums have significantly increased because of the new law."

The Kaiser report shows employer-sponsored health insurance premiums increased by nine-percent this year. Opponents point to the increase and say the healthcare law hasn't lived up to its billing. But, according to the Kaiser Foundation, other causes of premium increase include price hikes by hospitals and doctors and growing use of expensive new drugs and technologies. Supporters of the Federal Affordable Care act, like the consumer healthcare group Florida CHAIN, say the law hasn't had a chance to start working yet. Laura Goodhue is the Executive Director.

Reporter: "If we're supposed to be "

Goodhue (interrupts): "That's because a lot of the provisions haven't gone into effect."

The timing of the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court means it could go before Justices in an election year. And Goodhue says she knows a lot is riding on the case.

"Regardless of the outcome, the rest of the law is the law of the land ad continues to be in effect now. I believe it is highly politically charged and we would just hope that our elected leaders will look to the best interest of Floridians."

Goodhue says she's confident the court will decide in favor of the law. But if it doesn't, she says there's still lots of good the Affordable care Act can do, even if the individual mandate is struck down. Florida is also asking the Supreme Court to invalidate another section of the Federal Affordable Care Act that calls for states to expand their Medicaid rolls or lose federal support. So far, only one court has ruled on that, and has said the Medicaid expansion can stay.