Coons v. Lew (IPAB/federal health care lawsuit)

Posted on May 12, 2014 | Type: Case
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On August 12, 2010 the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, challenging the constitutionality of the rationing board IPAB and the individual mandate. 

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Last step: 9th Circuit dismisses lawsuit as unripe for review
Next step: File cert. petition with US Supreme Court


Why are we suing?

The Goldwater Institute challenges the Affordable Care Act's violation of individual rights and the Separation of Powers doctrine. Specifically, our suit is unique among the other lawsuits pending around the country in that it challenges Congress's creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) as an unconstitutional consolidation of government power in an unelected, unaccountable executive agency.

IPAB violates constitutional separation of powers

IPAB is an “independent” super-legislature tasked with setting Medicare prices. But it is far from advisory. The board’s actions automatically become law without Congress’s vote, the president’s signature, the public’s input or even the courts’ review.

Unconstrained by traditional checks and balances and unaccountable to the people, those appointed to IPAB are free to impose their own preferences on both public and private health care. The ACA’s vague directives empower IPAB members to take whatever actions they consider to be “related to the Medicare program,” presumably including establishing price controls, levying taxes and even rationing health care.

Wielding the powers of every branch of government but accountable to none, IPAB is the most extreme consolidation of government power in American history.

The ACA violates constitutional rights to medical autonomy and privacy

By forcing individuals like Plaintiff Nick Coons to buy health insurance they don't want or pay a tax penalty for refusing to do so, the ACA displaces health care treatments and doctor-patient relationships they prefer, violating their due process rights to medical autonomy.

By forcing individuals like Plaintiff Nick Coons to disclose personal information to third party insurance companies (which is then subject to confiscation by the government without a warrant) or pay a penalty for refusing to do so, the ACA violates individual rights to informational privacy.

The ACA runs afoul of the Health Care Freedom Act

HCFA is a state law that protects individual rights against state and federal overreach by prohibiting the government from penalizing people for failing to participate in a health care program. Health care is traditionally an area of state - not federal - regulation, and the Supreme Court has indicated that it won't interpret federal laws to trump exercises of traditional state authority unless Congress clearly intended that result. 

Who are the clients?

Nick Coons of Tempe, Arizona owns his own computer sales and repair business and pays for health care out of his pocket. However, he will face heavy fines from the IRS if he doesn’t buy a government-approved health insurance plan by 2014.

 Dr. Eric Novack is an orthopedic surgeon in Glendale, Arizona. Many of his patients are on Medicare. The health care law empowers the Independent Payment Advisory Board to cut Medicare reimbursements to physicians like Dr. Novack in order to cut Medicare spending. Cutting reimbursement rates when they are already low will result in forcing doctors to cut the number of Medicare patients they see and reduced care for Medicare recipients. IPAB is not reform – it is Congress’s way of abdicating its duties to a centralized, unelected, unaccountable board.


Second Amended Complaint (5/10/2011) original filed 8/12/2010
Defendants' Second Motion to Dismiss (5/31/2011)
Response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (6/20/2011)
Statement of Material Facts in Support of Plaintiffs' Summary Judgment (6/20/2011)
Defendants' Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss (7/5/2011)
Reply in Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment and in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (8/29/2011)
Controverting Statement of Facts (8/29/2011)
Trial Court Order Granting Motion to Stay (1/17/2012)
Trial Court Order for Supplemental Briefing (8/31/12)
Plaintiffs’ Supplemental Brief (9/13/2012)
Defendants' Supplemental Brief (9/27/2012)
Trial Court Order Dismissing Lawsuit (12/10/12)
Appellants' 9th Circuit Opening Brief(5/30/13)
Amicus Brief of Pacific Legal Foundation(6/5/13)
Appellees' 9th Circuit Response Brief(7/31/13)
Appellants' 9th Circuit Reply Brief (8/14/13)
9th Circuit Opinion Dismissing Complaint (8/7/2014)

Media Coverage

Stossel: IPAB, Obamacare lawlessness, and abuse of executive power
Op ed: IPAB: A New Era Of Healthcare Unaccountability
Quin Hillyer: Key Obamacare Challenge, Postponed
National Review: A Strike at the Heart of Obamacare
Reason: IPAB: "The Roach After the Nuclear Blast.”
The Hill: GOP hearings shine spotlight on lawsuit to stop Medicare board
Washington Post: George Will: Government by the ‘experts’
Investor's Business Daily: Will Congress Kill 'Death Panel 2.0'?
Daily Caller: Arizona lawsuit is latest to challenge to federal health care law
Daily Caller: ‘Real death panels’ set to face heat in Congress, courts
Weekly Standard: When Will the GOP Go On Offense Over Obama's Medicare Plan?

Legal Team

Clint Bolick is the Goldwater Institute’s litigation director. He has extensive success before trial judges and appellate courts. He has won two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He was named as a Lawyer of the Year in 2003 by American Lawyer magazine.

Christina Sandefur is a senior attorney at the Goldwater Institute, where she litigates cases advancing economic liberty, private property, free speech, and taxpayer rights. She is the lead attorney in the Institute's challenges to Obamacare and in Arizona's recent Medicaid tax. Sandefur is regularly cited as an expert in national media and has provided expert legal testimony to various legislative committees.

Nick Dranias convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the use of matching funds in Arizona’s system of taxpayer-funded campaigns. A research scholar as well as a lawyer, he has written amicus briefs and numerous studies and articles about interpreting state and U.S. constitutions to protect freedom.

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