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McCollum To File Suit Over Federal Healthcare Reform Package

By Gina Jordan

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wfsu/local-wfsu-892254.mp3

Tallahassee, FL – A legal challenge to the healthcare reform bill is already in the works. Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum says he will file a lawsuit as soon as President Obama signs the legislation, and other states will be joining in the suit. McCollum addressed reporters Monday to explain why he feels compelled to sue.

"All of us are concerned with having better quality, accessible and affordable healthcare. But this bill goes far beyond that question, and it goes into areas that many states including the state of Florida and this Attorney General find to be something that is simply unconstitutional."

McCollum says he will file suit in the Northern District of Florida, and he will be joined by at least nine other Attorneys General from around the country who are concerned about two primary areas of the bill.

"Number one, the individual mandate provision that's in this bill that requires an individual just for living, we call it a living tax on an individual, just for sitting in a chair and not doing anything, to be having to pay a penalty if they don't buy an insurance policy, a health insurance policy. So the law requires, it will come out and be signed by the president, that a person has to buy health insurance, that if they're not, they'll pay a fine or a tax. Secondly, the lawsuit is going to seek a declaration that the whole bill is unconstitutional on the basis that it manipulates the states into doing things that the states simply can't afford and breaks the sovereignty and is a violation of the tenth amendment."

The tenth amendment provides that powers not granted to the federal government are granted either to the states or the people. McCollum says everybody should have the chance to get health insurance, but this is the wrong approach, forcing people to pay regardless.

"It's either a fine or a tax, and it's whichever is the highest. If it's the tax that's involved in this, it's a direct tax. Under the Constitution, in order to have such a tax if it were permissible, you would have to apportion that tax among the states. That has not been attempted in this bill, so that alone is a violation of the constitution."

Other states joining the lawsuit include Pennsylvania, Washington, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, and Alabama. But what about car insurance? If you drive, you're required to have it. McCollum was asked why health insurance is different.

"There's no commerce, there's nobody buying a car. This is not a tax on employment, it's not like Medicare or Social Security. This is a tax or a penalty on just living, and that's unconstitutional. There's no provision in the Constitution of the United States giving Congress the power to do that."

McCollum says Congress has exceeded its powers with an unfunded mandate that would cost the state of Florida billions of dollars to implement. He says the state would have to increase the Medicaid rolls and hire many more workers to handle the case load. He notes that even some Democrats voted against what he calls an unconstitutional invasion of the state by the federal government.

"It's not the purview of this lawsuit, the other things that I think are bad. I think this bill leads eventually to more rationing of care by bureaucrats in the federal government and in agencies that are involved in this. It's going to be more difficult to get care. You're going to have fewer physicians in certain specialties that are available. It's not the kind of thing that the proponents of the bill will tell you, but this is going to cost at the end of the day a lot of money that we don't have to pay for it, federally and in the state. It's just not a good bill, and you pay taxes up front, huge amounts of taxes for four years before most of these provisions kick in."

McCollum may be out of the Attorney General's office by the time the lawsuit reaches the U-S Supreme Court, but he may be in the Governor's office, since he is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. His main Democratic challenger, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, issued a statement saying that our state and our country need health care reform. She said that while the bill is not perfect, these long-overdue reforms are better than Washington continuing to do nothing.