Archive for Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kansas attorney general adds state to another lawsuit against federal health care law

June 7, 2011


— Attorney General Derek Schmidt has brought Kansas into another lawsuit against the federal health care overhaul enacted last year, and he said Tuesday that the move will help states flesh out arguments they expect to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The lawsuit is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which has scheduled arguments from attorneys for September. Five individuals from three states allege a federal mandate that most Americans buy health insurance, starting in 2014, violates their religious liberties because their beliefs compel them not to purchase coverage.

Schmidt and attorneys general for 13 other states ignored that issue in filing a friend-of-the-court brief last month asking the appeals court to strike down the mandate. Instead, they argued, the mandate represents an unprecedented expansion of federal power not allowed by the U.S. Constitution. Schmidt also said the attorneys general are concerned about what they perceive as an overly broad ruling by a federal judge.

Kansas already is among 26 states challenging the federal health care overhaul in a lawsuit filed in Florida that's scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Schmidt said he may consider bringing Kansas into other cases.

"We're not out going shopping for opportunities to get engaged, but we're also keeping a watchful eye on cases as they make their way up," Schmidt said during an interview with The Associated Press.

Schmidt said the state's involvement in the lawsuits is costing his office no money and only a "nominal amount" of staff time.

"We are looking at the most strategic moves to put us in the strongest position when the issue gets before the U.S. Supreme Court," Schmidt said. "We want to help get the record fleshed out."

The federal law says Americans who don't buy health insurance and don't qualify for an exemption face paying tax penalties. Democratic President Barack Obama's administration, which pushed for the overhaul, argues that a provision of the U.S. Constitution allowing the federal government to regulate interstate commerce permits it to impose the mandate.

Schmidt and other Kansans, particularly his fellow Republicans, disagree, and this year, Kansas legislators enacted a health care "freedom" law. It takes effect July 1 and says no individual can be compelled to buy health insurance and the policy, meant to challenge the federal mandate. However, even a few lawmakers who supported it doubt state action can trump federal law.

In the lawsuit in the District of Columbia, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled in February that decisions not to purchase health insurance, collectively, are an economic activity that can be regulated by the federal government. Schmidt said he and the other attorneys general saw her conclusion as "so far off the mark" that they wanted to intervene.

The case's five plaintiffs, one from New York, one from North Carolina and three from Texas, relied heavily on religious freedom arguments, which the judge rejected.

Three described themselves as Christians who said they believe purchasing health insurance would demonstrate that they are not really sure whether God will provide for their needs. The other two plaintiffs say they believe in a "holistic approach to medical care."


Clark Coan 7 years ago

He's just wasting Kansans' hard-earned tax dollars. No way the Supremes are going to overturn the Affordable Health Care Law. He's just doing it for political expediency purposes.

jafs 7 years ago


How will a conservative court justify such a broad interpretation of the ICC, given that conservatives generally favor more narrow interpretations?

MyName 7 years ago

IANAL, but:

1) Because the law actually passed Congress and was signed by the President, which means the burden of proof is on the people affected to show that their Constitutional rights are being "infringed" somehow.

2) This is the exact same thing that they do for car insurance and yet somehow it's infringing to have it on a national level? That doesn't make sense.

3) National Medical Insurance programs already exist as well (Medicare and Medicaid) and yet something less intrusive on personal liberty is somehow going to be struck down? That doesn't make sense.

jafs 7 years ago

The question is whether the federal government has the right, via a very broad interpretation of the ICC, to mandate the individual purchase of health insurance.

So, if it doesn't, which I tend to think is the case:

  1. It infringes on my right to be free from an over-reaching federal government, and on the right of the states to set their own policies.

  2. State regulations regarding car insurance don't rely on the ICC, so it's not the same thing. States are free to do a number of things, with a limited federal government (the original idea).

  3. Actually, those are interesting questions as well - I wonder what the constitutional justification is, if there is one, for those programs.

Again, my question is how a conservative court, given the conservative tendency to interpret federal scope more narrowly, will support a ruling in favor of such a broad use of the ICC, which was clearly not intended to allow the federal government this sort of scope/reach.

kansanjayhawk 7 years ago

We all have the option of not driving and not owning a car--or do you want to mandate and fund that as well--this law is a huge overreach.

TimW 7 years ago

I don't know the requirements of the law in detail, but this doesn't make sense to me.

I was lucky enough to work in a job that paid 100% of my health care. Then I moved to a job where my employer kicked in 25% for myself, 10% for a spouse and the first two dependents, and if I had more than two kids their coverage was on me. Now I work at a place where it's a 50/50 split between myself and my employer.

I keep seeing it said that employers are going to drop coverage because now they'll be forced to OFFER health benefits, nobody ever says that they'll be dropping coverage because they have to PAY for the benefits.

Why wouldn't an employer negotiate into a group plan, offer it to their employees, and then tell them the cost is on them? Again, I'm not familiar with the law in detail, but to me there seems to be a big difference between OFFERING and PAYING for benefits.

I'm sure I'm missing something big and obvious here, but I'm not seeing it. If I owned a small company I know that I'd get a better rate negotiating as a group including my employees rather than negotiating on my own for my family and myself, so even if I wasn't going to pay into the benefit it makes no sense for me not to offer it and get a group rate.

MyName 7 years ago

You agree that Kansas should waste our time and money on adding another frivolous lawsuit to the docket when we're having enough trouble with the budget? Let other states (or gasp private citizens) fight it over if they have the money.

overthemoon 7 years ago

Fox news as a source? Where's the backup info.

In fact, most business owners have found that their premiums did not go up nearly as much this year as in previous years.

Kendall Simmons 7 years ago

Actually, the survey does NOT show that 30% of employers will do any such thing. It simply shows that 30% currently say that's "definitely" or "probably" what they'll do several years from now.

Please note, though, that the survey also reports that these businesses "would reap financial gain from dropping coverage even if they compensated employees for the change through other benefit offerings or higher salaries." However, keep in mind that these businesses would also reap financial gain from dropping coverage right now!! And without penalty, unlike in 2014! But...funny thing...they haven't done so.

This survey gave some company owners a chance to vent. It shouldn't be taken as anything more than that.

MyName 7 years ago

Yeah, that's what I need to do is waste my time on a FUD link from the GOP that is probably about as factual and informative as a bulletin from the Politburo. Am I forgetting something, or did we not spend a year having hearings on this kind of thing before Congress passed this legislation?

overthemoon 7 years ago

That has been debunked over and over again. There will be a 3.8% tax on Capitol gains over $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for couples. (No 3.8% tax on anything up to that amount) There is N.O. tax on regular home sales. Period. They are lying to you, you should complain about T H A T!!

Alceste 7 years ago

What a bunch of fear mongering non-sense.

"The truth is that only a tiny percentage of home sellers will pay the tax. First of all, only those with incomes over $200,000 a year ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly) will be subject to it. And even for those who have such high incomes, the tax still won’t apply to the first $250,000 on profits from the sale of a personal residence — or to the first $500,000 in the case of a married couple selling their home."

jafs 7 years ago

This is the kind of thing that bugs me.

Even after it's been proven false, people will still believe it, and spread the misinformation around.

Alceste 7 years ago

The "GOOD" thing is that it only impacts on a VERY few who are VERY wealthy.

The "BAD" thing is that these VERY WEALTHY try to make regular people think it applies to them.

What a swell group, these VERY WEALTHY. You'd think they have better things to fund the ARTS. ......>>>>>>???!!!

jhawkinsf 7 years ago

Just a quick point, a $500,000 house in many areas of the country would cost about $150,000 here. Not exactly wealthy.

Kendall Simmons 7 years ago

Did you know that...this "3.8% sales tax on all real estate transactions" has become such an urban legend that it's even listed on!!!

Good grief!!

tomatogrower 7 years ago

Quit believing everything you read in stupid emails. Always check or to find out the truth.

kansanjayhawk 7 years ago

My understanding is that in Mass. the premiums have skyrocketed! We need to reevaluate this Obama Care law and send it back to the Congress for further review. It was obviously put through in haste and much of it is ill considered.

TheShaman 7 years ago

Unfortunately for the insurance companies in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts they've actually got to go in front a state board and justify their rate increases. I'm not denying they went up in 2010, in most cases significantly (25.2% for Fallon, 17.6% for BCBS, 16.1% for Tufts), but they received stiff resistance from the state board.

When it came time to set rates for 2011 these companies sang a different tune on the "necessity" of rate increases. Fallon requested an 8.4% increase (9.2% for BCBS, 9% for Tufts) and from what I understand the rate increases for 2012 are expected to be even smaller again.

Yes, premiums have gone up (even the low 8.4% increase for Tufts Health Plan is certainly not an insignificant number). Like everything else I would expect health insurance premiums to be bumped every year, almost in perpetuity if the companies can get away with it. However, put those numbers up against the premium increases of another state, let's say California (yeah, I know, cherry-picking the worst of the worst), and they really aren't looking that bad.

Obama-Care and Romney-Care are different animals and I don't know that it's fair to compare them side by side but people are going to regardless, unfortunately for some, I don't think Romney-Care is turning into the disaster many might hope.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years ago

I think that this is all just another attempt by the Kansas division of the Republican Terrorist Party, in their attempts to attack and destroy the Kenyan in the White House (according to the irrefutable Donald Trump). We have needed a national health care system, as most of the rest of the countries in the world have. for many years. Many former presidents have tried and failed, but Mr. Obama has succeeded in starting this one and deserves a great deal of credit for his effort and courage. And the legions of racist, facist, anti-Democratic Party minions will howl and rage on forever that some member of the Republican Terrorist Party did not do this first.

Kendall Simmons 7 years ago

frwent said "...the Kenyan in the White House (according to the irrefutable Donald Trump)"

Based on misunderstanding this and your '3.8% sales tax on all real estate sales' well as apparently thinking a survey in 2011 genuinely reflects business decisions in 2014, I'm wondering if you have difficulty reading for comprehension?

kansanjayhawk 7 years ago

Your entire opinion is diminished by the name-calling a labeling. You lower yourself to being a kind of verbal terrorist yourself by using terms like "Republcan Terrorist Party". Sadly, you are doing on a small scale exactly what you accuse your idealogical opponents of doing by using hateful and uncivil language.

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