Florida's AG Threatens to Sue Federal Govt. Over Health Care Reform listen03/16/10 Kate Bradshaw
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As the bill that would overhaul health care pushes through Congress, Republicans are fighting it on nearly all fronts. Today, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum reiterated his plans to sue the federal government if it passes.
Attorney General McCollum says that the both the House and Senate versions of the bill are unconstitutional. Why? He says they violate the Interstate Commerce Clause. McCollum says this 16-word clause doesnâ€™t give Congress the authority to compel individuals to buy health insurance. He calls this individual mandate a â€œliving tax.â€
In an analysis he sent to the National Association of Attorneys General, he cites several court cases that used this clause to argue against a law. But McCollum says he takes issue with other aspects of the legislation.
McCollum has assembled a coalition of state agencies to examine the billâ€™s financial impact in Florida. Among these are the Office of Insurance Regulation, the Department of Child and Family Services, the Department of Health, and the Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA, the agency that administers Medicaid. James McFaddin is the chief of staff for AHCA. He said these agencies have a neutral role.
McFaddin said McCollum might use information from these agencies to back his case against the federal government. It might include the additional costs Medicaid would require, since more people would qualify if the legislation is implemented.
Stetson University College of Law constitutional law expert Bruce Jacob says this is a convenient tack for a Republican whoâ€™s running for governor.
Jacob, who is known for his work on the landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright, says that compelling individuals to act is nothing new.
Jay Wolfson is a professor at USF Health as well as an adjunct at Stetson Law. He specializes in health care law. Wolfson says thereâ€™s another constitutional question that supersedes the Commerce Clause.
Some question if itâ€™s appropriate for the attorney general to battle federal health care legislation, given that McCollumâ€™s explicit role is to ensure public safety for Floridians. Democratic State Sen. Dave Aronberg, who is running for attorney general, calls McCollumâ€™s actions political posturing, and questions how it protects Floridians.
The U.S. House is expected to vote on the health care package this week. It may use a strategy called deem and pass, which would amend the Senate version of the bill that passed in late 2009, to get it through quickly.