Jindal: State suit possible

Posted: 03/23/2010 by Lynn Dartez in 2011

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health-care dispute enters newphase

Gov. Bobby Jindal gives reasons Monday for his opposition to the  federal health-care revamp which cleared Congress late Sunday night  during a brief Governor’s Mansion news conference restricted to the  subject.

Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday he wants to fight the federal health-care overhaul legislation by raising a “states rights” argument in court.

Jindal asked Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to file a lawsuit that would exempt Louisiana from the health-care bill, which the U.S. House passed late Sunday and is expected to be signed into law today.

Caldwell’s spokeswoman, Tammi Arender, issued a statement late Monday saying the attorney general is considering either joining lawsuits being considered in a number of other states or filing a separate lawsuit, “whichever he deems to be most effective.” Caldwell did not respond to three interview requests Monday.

Jindal said the health-care revamp legislation pushed by President Barack Obama amid Republican criticism, violates the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Requiring the purchase of health insurance is an improper use of “the commerce clause to impose a mandate on our people,” he said.

The 10th Amendment says that states have the powers not granted to the national government nor specifically prohibited in the Constitution.

“This bill shifts huge costs to the states and basically violates the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. I’m hopeful our attorney general and the other states that join in this will be successful in reminding Congress there is a 10th Amendment,” Jindal said at a hastily called news conference in the Governor’s Mansion.

Jindal also said he would pursue legislation during Louisiana’s legislative session, which starts March 29, to opt the state out of using taxpayer money to fund elective abortions in the state’s purchasing exchange.

Two lawmakers have filed legislation for consideration in the session asserting Louisiana’s rights in the health-care arena. Jindal said passage of those type bills would help the state’s case.

Virginia became the first state to enact a law aimed at stopping the federal government from imposing health-care reform on that state. Similar legislation has been or proposed by legislatures in 34 other states.

Other states planning a constitutional court challenge to the health-care overhaul bill include Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

What’s at issue is that the federal health-care revamp measure would require people to purchase insurance policies or face penalties, said Gil Dupré, chief executive of the Louisiana Association of Health Plans, a trade organization.

The bill guarantees that people with pre-existing conditions can find health insurance and that those who are ill cannot be dropped from their policies. Privately owned insurance companies can only afford to cover the costs of treating the chronically ill by using the money paid in premiums by people who don’t use the insurance as much, Dupré said.

A larger pool of money is necessary to pay for a larger group of people needing services, he said. But many healthy people won’t voluntarily enroll and pay premiums for insurance they don’t immediately need, Dupré said.

Obama’s health-care plan would require that everyone buy health-care insurance, usually through an employer, many of whom would receive tax credits. People unable to afford a policy would receive financial help. But those who still refuse to purchase a policy would be penalized.

“That particular provision — mandating a person buy an insurance policy — is what the states are challenging in court,” Dupré said Monday morning.

The governor said the legislation also would force an expensive expansion of the state’s Medicaid program that would cost the state $345 million a year when fully phased in.

In his own news conference later Monday afternoon, state health Secretary Alan Levine said that extra expense wouldn’t kick in until the 2020-2021 state year.

Though still studying the proposed law, Levine said he could find no immediate state costs associated with the legislation.

Levine said the added state costs down the road will come because of an estimated 360,000 to 380,000 more people who are projected to be eligible for government sponsored health care under the proposed law. The government-run health insurance program covers 1.2 million poor, elderly and disabled people — roughly one of every four Louisiana residents.

Under the federal legislation, that number would expand to 37 percent — a little more than one of every three residents, Levine said.

Levine said he also worries there won’t be sufficient health-care providers to take care of the new enrollees that the legislation calls for.

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