McCollum Cites Health Care Bill as Unconstitutional

Jun 12, 2010

Capitol Outlook

Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, said he “deeply concerned” about the lawsuit filed by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum March 23 against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Treasury and the U.S. Department of Labor alleging the health care reform bill signed into law by President Barack Obama is unconstitutional. The lawsuit was joined by 12 attorney generals and is the first challenge of the new law.

“We know this is an election season, and desperate candidates often opt for desperate measures,” Lawson said. “This Democratic Leader is not part of the Republican chorus singing the anti-healthcare mantra.” The health care reform was signed by Obama March 23.

“This year, tens of thousands of uninsured Americans with a preexisting condition and parents whose children have a preexisting condition will finally be able to purchase the coverage they need,” Obama said in a news conference following the passing of the bill. “This year, insurance companies will no longer be able to drop people’s coverage when they get sick, or place lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits on the amount of care they can receive. This year, all new insurance plans will be required to offer free preventive care. And this year, young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ policies until they’re 26 years old. That all happens this year.”

He continued, “This year, seniors who fall in the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole will get some help to help pay for prescription drugs. And I want seniors to know, despite what some have said, these reforms will not cut your guaranteed benefits. So these are the reforms that take effect right away. These reforms won’t give the government more control over your health care. They certainly won’t give the insurance companies more control over your health care. These reforms give you more control over your health care. And that’s only the beginning.”

McCollum said the law represents an unprecedented encroachment on the liberty of the American people, and he will pursue this litigation to the highest court if necessary. The complaint alleges the new law infringes upon the constitutional rights of Floridians and residents of the other states by mandating all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage or pay a tax penalty. McCollum says by imposing such a mandate, the law exceeds the powers of the United States under Article I of the Constitution and violates the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. Additionally, the tax penalty required under the law constitutes an unlawful direct tax in violation of Article I, sections 2 and 9 of the Constitution.” the lawsuit states.

Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami, said McCollum is not thinking of the people of Florida. “AG McCollum is tone deaf to the reality we have nearly four million uninsured Floridians, 800,000 of which are children,” Gelber said. “His decision to challenge the constitutionality of the federal health care reform bill that is working its way through the Congress is shortsighted and nothing more than rank demagoguery. We live in a state with a full-blown health care crisis. No state, other than Texas, has a higher percentage of uninsured and yet we see more of the same politics as usual from AG McCollum. Though I am outraged by AG McCollum’s decision, I am not surprised. I think it’s sad that our state’s top legal officer has sided with insurance companies that seek to deny Floridians coverage or prevent children with pre existing illnesses from receiving health care.”

The lawsuit further claims the health care reform law infringes on the sovereignty of the states by imposing onerous new operating rules that Florida must follow as well as requiring the state to spend billions of additional dollars without providing funds or resources to the state to help subsidize the cost of implementation of the law.
“This burden comes at a time where the Florida faces severe budget cuts to offset shortfalls in an already-strained budget,” McCollum said.

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman said that because McCullum has no plans to move Florida forward or bring jobs to the Sunshine State, he filed the lawsuit to block Obama’s historic health insurance reform.

“This is just another petty partisan ploy from a Washington politician,” Thurman said. “Bill McCollum has spent much of the last 30 years, since he was first elected to Congress in 1980, either ignoring the growing crisis in our healthcare system or fighting against commonsense solutions to cover the four million Floridians who lack health insurance.  The fact of the matter is, health insurance reform that ensures security for those with insurance, coverage for more than 31 million Americans currently living without health care, and lower costs for everyone has passed in both chambers of Congress and been signed by the president. The people of Florida can’t afford more delays, obstruction, or political stunts-they want reform implemented now.”

Artina Hamilton, a Tallahassee resident, said she supports the legislation. “President (George) Bush went to war because of his father,” Hamilton said. “And now President Obama is saving lives because of his mother.”

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