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Hospital Groups Want Say in ACA Lawsuit

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, November 17, 2010

Six groups representing 5,000 U.S. hospitals and health systems filed an amicus brief late last week asking to join the Florida lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

But while the state of Florida is arguing against the individual mandate, the requirement that individuals who can afford it be required to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty, these six hospital organizations hope to argue in favor of it.

The amicus brief was filed by the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI), the Catholic Health Association of the United States, and the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The case is being heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Pensacola.  The case is one of several filed by a variety states, although some state courts have declined to hear some of the legal challenges.

If they are not overturned, the individual mandate's provisions take effect in 2016. They include subsidies to help people in certain low-income brackets buy coverage policies.

Larry McAndrews, executive director for the NACHRI, says that his "general sense is that with this lawsuit, we're concerned that the results may not end up in the way that would be supportive to the kind of changes we might be looking for.

"We want to be part of the deliberations that lead to the decision the judge makes. We're just saying to the court, we want to be part of the official input that you receive." McAndrews says that hospital lawyers feel that the Florida case may be the one among 20 filed by states that has a chance of moving forward, eventually perhaps to the U.S. Supreme Court.

While the individual mandate won't eliminate the entire problem of uncompensated care that hospitals now provide, "the whole thing (health reform effort) unravels if there's not some sort of insurance principle that works."

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