Attorney General Pruitt Takes Action on Oklahoma Health Care Lawsuit
Oklahoma amendment still protects Oklahomans from being forced to buy health care; Supreme Court decision, other federal actions raise new questions about constitutionality
OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Scott Pruitt Friday asked a federal judge to lift a stay on Oklahoma’s health care lawsuit and allow the state time to address the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act.
The Oklahoma lawsuit was filed on Jan. 21, 2011, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. It is pending before Judge Ronald White, who stayed the case while the U.S. Supreme Court decided a lawsuit filed by Florida and 25 other states. The Supreme Court decision was issued in June.
“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.”
The Attorney General’s 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 like Oklahoma, where a state-run health insurance exchange has not been created.
Attorneys, led by the Solicitor General, also are assessing the effect of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment (Article II, Section 37) that prohibits any government from “mandating” Oklahomans to purchase health insurance. State Question 756 – The Oklahoma Health Care Freedom Amendment – was passed in November 2010 with more than 70 percent of the vote.
“This lawsuit has never been about health care. 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,” Pruitt said. “Our duty is to defend the states’ role and provide a check for this out-of-control administration that unashamedly seeks to exceed its authority.”