Oklahoma's attorney general is taking on President Barack Obama's health care act for a second time, renewing the state's initial lawsuit to get a fresh day in court.
Scott Pruitt's initial challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was put on hold by Judge Ronald White pending a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on a similar challenge coming from Florida.
The Supreme Court issued an opinion in June and, much to the chagrin of Pruitt and the 27 other states involved in challenges to the act, the high court upheld the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance or else face a fine.
The court ruled that while the federal government did not have the authority to issue such a mandate under the Commerce Clause, Congress could impose a tax to the same effect.
“Oklahoma is in a unique position with the only active lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act to hold the federal government accountable in how it implements the law,” Pruitt said in a written statement. “Now that the Supreme Court has deemed the ACA a tax, and therefore constitutional, the federal government must follow the law and proper procedures, and that is not being done.”
Initially, the complaint filed against the act focused on the constitutionality of forcing individuals to purchase health insurance.
More than 60 percent of voters in Oklahoma approved an amendment to the state constitution in November 2010 that prohibits any government from requiring Oklahomans to buy health insurance.
Pruitt is still seeking a judgment on the original claim that Oklahoma's constitutional amendment supersedes the federal mandate.
But a new complaint in Pruitt's amended lawsuit is that the Internal Revenue Service has issued rules to implement the Affordable Care Act that overstep and directly conflict “with the unambiguous language” in the act itself.
Those rules deal with the health exchanges that states were initially required to implement under the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court found it unconstitutional to require a state to establish an exchange, and left the decision up to each individual state.
“Oklahoma has not established or elected to establish an Exchange, and does not expect to do so,” the complaint says. Yet, under the current rules set forth by the IRS, Oklahoma large businesses would still be liable to pay some sort of penalty or tax if employees sign up for health care through a federally established health care exchange.
The challenge is now in federal court in Muskogee.