KTVA (CBS): Alaska to join healthcare reform lawsuit

The state of Alaska will join 20 other states challenging the constitutionality of the recently enacted federal health care reform legislation.

The state of Alaska will join 20 other states challenging the constitutionality of the recently enacted federal health care reform legislation.
Governor Sean Parnell made the announcement midday April 20.

The state is joining the lawsuit in response to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which requires U.S. citizens to buy federal government-approved qualifying health insurance coverage beginning in 2014.

Those who refuse to purchase a qualifying health insurance coverage plan will face a tax penalty of $695 per year or 2.5 percent of their annual income, whichever is higher.

"With the enactment of health care legislation, the federal government has reached well beyond the scope of its authority - into the lives and freedom of Alaskans," Parnell said.

"This case is ultimately about the extent to which the federal government can exert power over the states. It has critical implications for the liberty interests of all American citizens. Alaska must join this important litigation."

Support for Parnell's decision to pursue the lawsuit is so far split along party lines for Alaska's lawmakers.

Those in favor of joining the lawsuit include republican lawmakers Attorney General Dan Sullivan, Congressman Don Young and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski.

U.S. Senator Mark Begich, Alaska-D, stands in opposition.

"The individual mandate is an unprecedented federal action," said Attorney General Sullivan.

Sullivan criticized the legislation arguing that the federal government has never before required its citizens to buy goods and services as a condition of being a lawful U.S. resident.

"The authority to require American citizens to comply with this mandate should be challenged as beyond the scope of Congress' Commerce Clause powers as enumerated in Article I of the Constitution," said Sullivan.

Also, by joining the suit, Sullivan says Alaskans are "defending the bedrock constitutional principles of federalism, limited government, and individual liberty."

The Governor emphasized that the decision to sue is more about Alaskans' liberty interests than about health care legislation.

"Health insurance coverage is not in the public interest if it's achieved through a constitutional short-cut that expands federal power at the expense of states' rights and the liberties of citizens," said Parnell.

U.S. Senator Mark Begich said, "at a time when Alaska's unemployment rate is at record highs and families are struggling to make ends meet, the administration of Governor Sean Parnell has decided to spend countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars on a lawsuit of dubious merit which is unlikely to be successful."

"That level of state dollars and resources could be better spent keeping our economy healthy, creating jobs for Alaskans and protecting public safety," Begich added.

Congressman Don Young disagrees with Begich saying, "I commend Governor Parnell and Attorney General Sullivan for taking a step towards ensuring freedom for Alaskans."

Young sees the health care reform legislation as a "steep infringement on the liberties of the American people" and "an intrusion into their lives."

"This Administration force-fed America a bill that will increase premiums while growing inefficient government bureaucracy by establishing nearly 160 new boards, commissions, and programs," said Young.

The Congressman insists the recently passed health care legislation is "absolutely unconstitutional" and that joining the lawsuit is best for Alaskans.

He has already signed on as a cosponsor of HR 4910, a bill to repeal health care legislation, and vows to support the Governor and his decision at the federal level.

"I am looking for ways to repeal the most egregious parts of the law - the tax hikes, Medicare cuts and increased premium," said Murkowski, "and replace them with proposals that will reign in the spiraling costs of health care, such as junk lawsuit reforms and allowing insurers to sell across state lines. But because President Obama is likely to veto any Congressional efforts to repeal the health care plan."

As far as her stance on health care reform during the debate, Murkowski supported a measure that which would have allowed states to opt out of the health care plan. The measure was struck down by the majority of the Senate.

The Department of Law's 48-page legal memorandum that analyzed the federal health care legislation found that most of the legal theories challenging the federal act do not raise serious constitutional issues, according to a press release from the Governor's office.

The department was most troubled by the individual mandate and constitutionally suspect provision of the federal act.

Source: Originally published April 20, 2010