84.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Friday, June 21, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesVirgin Islands Joins in Support of Affordable Care Act in Run Up...

Virgin Islands Joins in Support of Affordable Care Act in Run Up to High Court Hearing

The Virgin Islands has joined 13 states and the District of Columbia in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold President Obama’s health care reform law enacted in 2010.

Gov. John deJongh, Jr. announced Friday that the Virgin Islands has joined a legal brief filed by the state of Maryland with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the law. Virgin Islands Attorney General Vincent Frazer, along with attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, joined Maryland’s "amicus curiae" brief – literally "friend of the court in Latin. Such briefs are a way for advocates for and against an issue to weigh in on the high court’s arguments without being a party to the action.

The brief urges the court find the Affordable Care Act constitutional, specifically its mandate for all Americans to purchase health insurance, and to invalidate a lower court’s decision striking down the law.

The state of Washington and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have filed separate amicus briefs in support of the law. The Massachusetts attorney general argues that the state’s experience with its own 2006 health care law – passed under former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney and including an individual mandate – validates the federal law. That state’s largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, also filed a brief with the high court calling the individual mandate “essential.”

DeJongh said the Affordable Care Act is critical to his administration’s larger efforts to reform the territory’s health care delivery system, lower costs of coverage, and improve the health of Virgin Islanders.

“The people of the Virgin Islands are relying on the Affordable Care Act to help us solve a public health crisis, namely the large number of uninsured and under-insured citizens in our territory,” de Jongh said. “President Obama’s reform of health care is vital if we are to succeed in insuring all our citizens and bringing down the costs associated with health care.”

The brief argues that Congress was within its power when it enacted the law because health care is a national concern and the industry constitutes nearly one-fifth of the nation’s economy. The reforms adopted when Obama signed the bill into law in March 2010 “do not represent an incursion on state sovereignty or an encroachment on state regulatory authority,” the brief argues.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the law near the end of March.

The constitutionality of the landmark piece of legislation has been challenged by 26 states, which argue that Congress overstepped its authority when they included the provision for an individual mandate.

The individual mandate does not apply to the Virgin Islands because of its status as a U.S. territory rather than a state, but deJongh said it was important to support the larger effort to ensure the whole bill is not struck down by the court.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.