State Lawsuits Likely Over Health Care Bill

By: - March 18, 2010 12:00 am

If and when President Obama signs legislation revamping the nation’s health care system, several Republican-led states appear likely to fight a key provision of the new law in court.

Idaho Governor C.L. Butch Otter on Wednesday became the first governor to sign a bill setting up a possible court showdown, The Idaho Statesman reported . The new law directs the state attorney general to file suit if a mandate to buy health insurance is part of any federal law that emerges from Congress.

“How can somebody mandate us because we’re breathing to buy health insurance?” Republican Representative Jim Clark told The Statesman . “Now we’re saying in code: We’re not going to stand for that.”

Critics of a health insurance mandate say it differs from existing legal requirements for drivers to buy car insurance because driving is a choice. Buying health insurance, they say, is essentially a tax on being alive.

More than 30 other states are considering legislation similar to the bill Otter signed. In another critical state, Virginia, the office of the attorney general on Wednesday vowed its own lawsuit if Congress approves health care legislation this week, as Democrats hope.

Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II believes the proposed health care bill violates the U.S. Constitution because it assumes powers that are delegated to the states, The Washington Post reported . But the paper noted that “it is not clear whether Cuccinelli and other state attorneys general would have standing to sue over the federal reform and whether such suits would find favor with the federal courts.”

Like Idaho, Virginia has passed its own legislation vowing to fight any health care mandate, but The Idaho Statesman reported that the law went into effect without the signature of Governor Bob McDonnell, though he had initially vowed to sign it.

As it has on the federal level, the fight over health care in the states is breaking down along partisan lines. In Georgia, Democrats in the state Senate on Wednesday blocked Republican efforts to pass their own law rejecting a federal health insurance mandate, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported .

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