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VOL. 127 | NO. 135 | Thursday, July 12, 2012

Oct. Trial Set in Miss. Suit Over Health Care Law

HOLBROOK MOHR | Associated Press

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A federal judge in Mississippi has scheduled a trial for October in a lawsuit that claims the Obama Administration's health care law is illegal, in part based on arguments that it violates individual privacy rights by forcing citizens to buy insurance.

The lawsuit was one of several filed around the country challenging the Affordable Care Act. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling last month that upheld most of the law, including the individual mandate that requires people to buy insurance or face a penalty. The justices said that portion of the law was legal because the penalty for failing to get insurance amounts to a tax.

The lawsuit in Mississippi claims the law violates individual privacy rights because it would force citizens to disclose medical information to insurance companies when they are forced to purchase policies. The government denies that.

The suit was filed by three Mississippi residents in April 2010. Gov. Phil Bryant, who was lieutenant governor at the time, later joined the lawsuit as a private citizen.

U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett in Hattiesburg scheduled the bench trial for the court's October term, though a specific date hasn't been set. A pretrial conference is set for Aug. 10. The lawsuit had been on hold pending the outcome of the case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both sides in the lawsuit have filed motions for summary judgment, a ruling made by a judge without a trial.

The federal government has argued in court filings since the Supreme Court ruling that it's speculation to say private insurers will try to collect information about someone's medical history.

"Even if the fiction were to be indulged that the minimum coverage provision compels the disclosure of medical information to private health insurers, there can be no doubt that such disclosures, particularly for the routine purposes that plaintiffs allege, would be reasonable, and that the government's interest in enacting the provision outweighs privacy concerns in this context," government attorneys wrote in court filings.

The plaintiffs, however, said the entire case boils down to a simple matter of constitutional rights.

"As a sovereign people, we exist not to serve the Government, but have instead created the Government to serve us. We therefore have empowered the courts to protect our constitutional rights, especially those few, special rights we deem fundamental. Because the individual mandate infringes upon our fundamental right to privacy, the individual mandate must be declared unconstitutional, else we must acknowledge that sovereign authority no longer resides in the people," the plaintiffs argue.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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