McCollum Pushes Back on 'Forced' Health Care

AG readies constitutional challenge, urges other states to join
By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 17, 2010 (All day)

Attorney General Bill McCollum declared Tuesday there is "no benefit" to the federal health care legislation supported by the Obama administration and invited attorneys general from around the nation to join him in preparing to challenge the policy on constitutional grounds.

“There is no benefit to this bill,” McCollum said of the pending health care reform. “I can’t conceive of any.”


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McCollum sent a letter to Attorney General Jon Bruning, R-Neb, president of the National Association of Attorneys General, along with a memo arguing that both the House and Senate bills are unconstitutional on the issue of individual mandates.

“I’ve challenged, in my own legal analysis in this office, the constitutionality of individual mandates,” McCollum said during a news conference.

McCollum said that with both the U.S. House and Senate using reconciliation bills, it is likely the health care legislation will pass soon. “The president may very well sign a bill by the end of this week,” he said.

According to his legal analysis, McCollum said Congress cannot force citizens to purchase health care. It does not have the power to enact such a mandate. In his analysis, McCollum also drew upon precedents to argue that states have the right to sue the federal government to protect their interests.

To prepare for a lawsuit, he said, “We’re putting together a working group of the [state] agencies most harmed by this bill.”

That group includes the Office of Insurance Regulation, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Health.

“We simply know it’s going to fiscally hurt these agencies,” McCollum said. “That’s what they’re telling me.”

Democrats were quick to ignore the freedom of choice and constitutional issues and to criticize the attorney general for for planning to sue the federal government.

“McCollum showed he is tone deaf to the reality we have nearly four million uninsured Floridians, 800,000 of whom are children," said Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach. "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.”

The federal health care reform debate also is an issue in the gubernatorial race.

McCollum is the front-runner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. At a luncheon on Tuesday, Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, a close McCollum ally, asked the two other leading candidates their takes on the proposed federal legislation.

Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, said the Obama-supported legislation had little merit.

State CFO Alex Sink, the leading Democratic candidate for governor, said, “We need some kind of health care reform.”

Sink added that 25 percent of Floridians had no health insurance and 2.8 million Florida residents were on Medicaid. “That’s unacceptable,” she said.

Kevin Derby can be reached at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or (850) 727-0859.

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