January 15, 2012

Maryland leads states backing federal health insurance law

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By Megan Poinski
Megan@MarylandReporter.com

Attorney General Doug Gansler (Photo by Safe Medicines)

Attorney General Doug Gansler (photo by Safe Medicines)

While attorneys general in Virginia, Florida and a dozen other states have sued to block federal health care reform, Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler is leading the charge to support the Affordable Care Act before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Friday afternoon, Gansler filed a friend-of-court brief cosigned by attorneys general from 12 other states and territories supporting the constitutionality of the federal law.

“Health care has probably been the albatross in the system for decades,” Gansler said in a teleconference about the filing. “We need a solution.”

Congress passed the politically charged Affordable Care Act in 2010, and its legality has been questioned by opponents who dubbed it Obamacare. Several lawsuits were filed questioning different aspects of the law. The case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court was initially filed by the state of Florida.

Gansler calls its apolitical

Maryland’s brief only addresses what Gansler called an apolitical issue: Whether the federal government has the ability to require that people either have health insurance or pay a fee.

Gansler said that it can – especially since it already requires people to contribute to Social Security, register for the draft and serve in the military, and file taxes. It does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s “commerce clause” – which allows the federal government to regulate interstate commerce – because problems caused by people who do not have health insurance impact everyone in every state.

According to statistics included in the brief, health care accounted for almost 18% of the entire U.S. economy in 2009. In the same year, there were almost 49 million Americans without health insurance.

“Though state governments and private actors have taken important and innovative steps to expand access to health care and to restrain the growth of health care costs, no remedy can be fully effective without action on a national level,” the brief states.

The brief also states that the federal government prescribed no method for states to make insurance available to people, allowing each state to establish its own policies.

Attorneys general from California, Iowa, Oregon and Vermont joined Gansler on the teleconference, each sharing reasons for supporting the brief. Oregon Attorney General Tom Kroger said that the question is really who pays for health care. People without insurance who need acute care can go to hospital emergency rooms and receive it – but the high cost of that care is then paid by the taxpayers.

“There is no freedom to freeload,” Kroger said. “People have no right to shift their health care costs onto everyone else.”

Democratic AGs in support

Every jurisdiction supporting Maryland’s brief – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands – has a Democrat attorney general. Gansler said that Republican attorneys general are more than welcome to sign on to the brief.

Most states led by Republicans have actively opposed the law. Florida is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, jointly filed with South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Michigan, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Washington, Idaho and South Dakota.

Additionally, Virginia filed its own lawsuit challenging the health insurance law. The first federal judge who heard the case sided with the state and declared the law unconstitutional. The federal government appealed the case, and it was dismissed by the appellate judges in September.

  • I might be trading in my Libertarian card for saying this, but I completely agree with the following:

    “There is no freedom to freeload,” Kroger said. “People have no right to shift their health care costs onto everyone else.”
    Which is why I support the individual mandate.

    I don’t like a lot of the other aspects of ObamaCare (it needs to regulate less so that private plans can fall in price and branch out, not do the opposite), but I do like that part.

  • Megan, I think that enormous bills for medical services is the most terrible problem nowadays. We should solve this one first. Top priority.

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  • Anonymous

    I am all for “People have no right to shift their health care costs onto everyone else.” On the other hand the Affordable Care Act actually does that. It subsidizes persons who lack sufficient resources to purchase health care insurance through the Exchanges. So, what we have is the Government shifting peoples health care costs to everyone else.The Affordable Care Act also provides for hundreds if not thousands of federal and state agencies with thousands of high paid employees to direct physicians on when they can provide care and what care they can provide. I am wholly against the Affordable Care Act. Having worked in the Social Security Disability Operations, I would suggest it is grossly unwise to allow this Administration, Emanuel, Tavenner and Sebelius to control development and administrate your health care. They are already implementing IPABs and ACOs for to control the who, what and when. Check out the ramifications of these enhancements to the care you will be receiving!

    It appears that as usual Maryland’s Governor and AG are pursuing their own political interests, pandering on behalf of the Administration’s amoral initiative and in hopes of receiving more federal largess (including from other State’s contributions to the federal coffers) to cover Maryland’s out-of-control spending and billion plus dollar budget shortfall! That they are using State funds to act against the interests of Maryland citizens/taxpayers and taxpayers nationwide is reprehensible.

    May the Supreme Court end this Unaffordable, Wretched, Socialist abomination!

    As for myself, if I can’t afford medical care, I am satisfied going without … which I do on a regular basis and I don’t need the government to oversee my decision.
     

  • John T Billings

    While important, the Affordable Care Act is just the vehicle for the MUCH more important constitutional question: What is the scope of Interstate Commerce Clause. Does the federal government have the power to force you to engage in economic activity?

    This is the most important, and troubling, question of our time. Simply put, NO, not if we follow the Constitution. If Progressives want social change, at least follow the rules. If the Constitution says means anything you want it to mean, it means nothing at all. 

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