December 6, 2010

Incoming AG weighs fight over health reform

William Schneider believes the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. Others say a lawsuit is a futile gesture.

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

The plaintiffs in the Florida lawsuit claim the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not give the government authority to force Americans to purchase a commercial product such as health insurance.

However, Mills said she believes the economic cost of uncompensated health care is a hidden tax on businesses and individuals across the country.

"It is this nexus which constitutionally justifies comprehensive federal regulation," Mills wrote in a memo to lawmakers several months ago.

She said that the U.S. Supreme Court -- which eventually will hear this issue -- has upheld federal regulations in similar constitutional challenges, including the Social Security Act, the unemployment payroll tax and the Voting Rights Act.

If Maine joins the suit, she said, taxpayers would end up spending as much as $400,000 in legal fees while the state's input would have no effect on the outcome of the case.

"It's not going to be like the Supreme Court is going to say, 'Wait, where's Maine on this?' "

The law's provision requiring people -- except the very poor -- to buy health insurance is considered critical, because the law no longer allows insurers to deny coverage to anyone with pre-existing medical conditions or to charge more for insurance for persons either in poor health or of a certain age. Both provisions go into effect in 2014.

If young, healthy people don't buy insurance, or wait until they get sick to do so, the cost of insurance would skyrocket for everyone else, said Joel Allumbaugh, an insurance agent and president of the Maine Association of Health Underwriters.

"If they are successful in their lawsuit, it really takes the rest of the bill and unravels it at its core," he said. "Whether Maine is on board or not is less relevant than what happens when this ultimately gets to the Supreme Court."

-- Staff Writer Glenn Jordan contributed to this report.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 699-6261 or at:

tbell@mainetoday.com

 

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