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Gregoire and three other governors fight back in health care lawsuit

Post by John Henrikson / The News Tribune on June 23, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
June 23, 2010 4:41 pm

Gov. Chris Gregoire may not have been able to stop the state’s Republican Attorney General, Rob McKenna, from joining a multi-state challenge to the new federal health care bill, but today she and other Democratic governors are asking to intervene in the suit – and tout the advantages of the law’s changes.
 
“I’ve said from the beginning – the action of the Attorney General in filing this lawsuit does not represent the Governor, the Insurance Commissioner, legislative leadership, or thousands of Washingtonians in our state that would benefit from national health care reform,” Gregoire said in a news release.

UPDATE: McKenna has issued a statement in response:

“The 20 states, represented by 16 attorneys general and four governors, members of the National Federation of Independent Business and individuals affected by these new mandates filed this lawsuit because health care reform is too important to build on an unconstitutional foundation,” McKenna said.

Read the full releases below:

Gov. Gregoire joins other governors to announce next step in federal lawsuit against health care reform

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today, along with Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, Gov. Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania and Gov. Bill Ritter of Colorado announced they have filed a joint motion to enter a federal lawsuit and present information about the benefits and opportunities provided to their states by the landmark health care reform legislation recently signed by President Obama.

“I’ve said from the beginning – the action of the Attorney General in filing this lawsuit does not represent the Governor, the Insurance Commissioner, legislative leadership, or thousands of Washingtonians in our state that would benefit from national health care reform,” Gregoire said. “We need to move forward.  This legislation not only provides necessary care to millions of Americans who desperately need it – it protects our tax payers from the skyrocketing costs of health care.”

“The individual mandate is an issue of personal responsibility,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “It prevents people from shifting the cost of their medical care onto others. It’s a cornerstone for making the new reforms work.”

Minutes after the President signed the health care reform package into law on March 23, 13 attorneys general, including those from Washington, Colorado, Michigan and Pennsylvania, filed a joint lawsuit in Pensacola, Florida – claiming the legislation violates the constitution.

The motion filed today is the first step in entering the case, and asks the court to allow a “friend of the court” brief to be filed by governors who actually administer state health care programs and are familiar with the way the federal law helps their states meet the needs of governments, residents and businesses in their states.   
“The position of the Attorneys General does not represent the interests of small businesses and individuals who seek affordable health care options, individuals with preexisting conditions who need health care insurance, or all the people who find their taxes and insurance premiums raised to bear the costs of the uninsured” said Gregoire.  “We are seeking to give voice to these beneficiaries of the health reform law.”
 
The governors will argue that the court should reject the attorney generals’ request that implementation of the health care reform law be prevented from moving forward.  The governors will be able to inform the Court about the need for and the benefits of federal reform.
They will argue that the attorney generals’ assertions that the federal law violates states rights  are unfounded. 
 
Attorneys in Seattle and Florida have agreed to represent the governors at no cost.  The attorneys include Rebecca Roe, Adam Berger, William Rutzick and Kristin Houser of the Seattle firm Schroeter, Goldmark & Bender. They will work with Guy M. Burns of the firm Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns in Tampa, Florida.  
 
The governors worked to ensure the federal health reform law met the needs of the states, and will point to numerous benefits to the states from the federal-state partnership including:
 
Health insurance coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, which experience shows can only be sustained if individuals are discouraged from waiting until they become sick or injured to obtain health insurance.

Federal funding for programs that are now wholly state-funded or have waiting lists because of lack of funds, such as Washington’s Basic Health Plan that provides subsidized health insurance for low-income individuals.

Significant reductions in the “hidden tax” on the medical and insurance costs of those who pay their bills when the uninsured do not pay for health care they receive

Measures to control the skyrocketing costs of health insurance, which will help the economies of their states. 

 
Other benefits of the Act include:

·         Affordable health insurance for middle class families and small businesses through tax incentives and credits;

·         Peace of mind for citizens, who will know if they lose their job, change jobs or start a business, they will be able to purchase quality, affordable care in a new competitive health care market;

·         Coverage for those with pre-existing conditions who are often denied the health care insurance they so desperately need;

·         Coverage for young adults up to age 26 who rely on their parents’ health care policies;  and

·         Tough consumer protections to rein in the worst abuses of the insurance industry.

McKenna responds to governors’ motion opposing health care mandate lawsuit

OLYMPIA— Attorney General Rob McKenna issued the following statement in response to today’s announcement that Gov. Gregoire and three other governors filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of newly adopted federal health care mandates.

“The 20 states, represented by 16 attorneys general and four governors, members of the National Federation of Independent Business and individuals affected by these new mandates filed this lawsuit because health care reform is too important to build on an unconstitutional foundation,” McKenna said.

“The requirement that every individual obtain qualified health care coverage or pay a penalty is an unprecedented expansion of the federal government’s powers that deserves scrutiny by our courts,” he said. “Similarly, we believe the massive expansion of the Medicaid program will unconstitutionally require states to spend billions more on this program at a time when state budgets are already in crisis.”

Background:

McKenna joined 12 other state plaintiffs, including Louisiana’s Democratic Attorney General, in filing this lawsuit on March 23, 2010. The suit was amended on May 14, 2010, to add seven additional states, including four governors, the National Federation of Independent Business and two individual plaintiffs. The lawsuit alleges that the new law infringes upon the constitutional rights of individuals by mandating all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage or pay a tax penalty. By imposing such a mandate, the law exceeds the powers of the United States under Article I of the Constitution. Additionally, the tax penalty required under the law constitutes an unlawful direct tax in violation of Article I, sections 2 and 9 of the Constitution.

The lawsuit further claims the health care reform law infringes on the sovereignty of the states and Tenth Amendment to the Constitution by imposing onerous new operating rules that Washington must follow as well as requiring the state to spend billions of additional dollars without providing funds or resources to meet the state’s cost of implementing the law.

The US Department of Justice filed its motion to dismiss on June 16, 2010, and the case is scheduled for oral argument before Judge Roger Vinson of the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida Pensacola Division at 9 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2010.

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