Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


McKenna says Americans deserve a timely answer on mandate to buy federally approved insurance

OLYMPIA – Today, the 26 states challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case in its upcoming term.

"This case must be heard by the highest court in the land – and the sooner the better,” said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna. “As I've said before, health care reform is much too important to build on an unconstitutional foundation. As Americans continue to struggle through this recession, they deserve to know whether or not they will be forced to buy an expensive, government-mandated insurance product in the private marketplace against their will and in violation of their constitutional rights."

The petition by the 26 states, along with a parallel petition from the National Federation of Independent Businesses and two individual plaintiffs, asks the nation’s highest court to consider whether the individual mandate – that virtually every individual obtain health insurance or pay a fine – exceeds Congress’ enumerated powers under the Constitution, and whether the mandate can be severed from the rest of the law.

Among other questions, the states also ask the court to rule on whether Congress exceeded its constitutional powers by requiring the states, which are already cash-strapped, to massively expand Medicaid eligibility.  Such an expansion could cost Washington state billions of dollars.

On August 12, 2011, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 2-1 opinion, ruling the federal government may not force individuals to purchase government-approved health insurance in the private marketplace, striking down the so-called “individual mandate” of the Affordable Care Act.  The 11th Circuit, however, differed with lower court on the issue of whether the entire act should be nullified.  The Circuit Court concluded that the individual mandate could be struck down without declaring the entire act unconstitutional.

Attorney General Rob McKenna supports moving this case quickly through the legal process so that individuals and businesses have a degree of certainly about what will happen with their health care costs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, health care spending represents about 17 percent of the American economy.

The Supreme Court’s upcoming term begins on Oct. 3 and runs through the end of June 2012.


Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725