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June 23, 2010
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 have requested to file 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.”

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 lawsuit does not challenge most provisions in this 2,400-page bill, including several scheduled to take effect this year, such as among other things:

  • Allowing  children access to health insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions;
  • Providing seniors a rebate to fill the so-called "donut hole" in Medicare drug coverage, which severely limits prescription medication coverage expenditures over $2,700;
  • Banning lifetime caps on the amount of insurance an individual can have;
  • Prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to existing policy-holders when they get sick; and
  • Allowing young adults to continue to be covered by their parents' health insurance until they reach age 27.

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.

More background on the health care mandate lawsuit, including the states' briefs 

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