Brewer praises ruling allowing health-care suit to move forward - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Brewer praises ruling allowing health-care suit to move forward

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Posted: Thursday, October 14, 2010 5:19 pm | Updated: 12:42 am, Fri Oct 29, 2010.

Gov. Jan Brewer is praising Thursday’s ruling by a federal judge in Florida allowing 20 states, including Arizona, to sue the Obama administration to overturn the new federal health care law.

In a prepared statement, she called that law “one of the most intrusive federal mandates and violations of states  rights ever seen.’’ She said the lawsuit gives states a chance to convince a federal judge that Congress -- and the president -- overstepped their bounds.

She also used Thursday’s ruling to criticize Attorney General Terry Goddard, who also is her Democratic foe in the gubernatorial race, for refusing to join the suit.

The challenge focuses on two key provisions of the law.

One will require most individuals to purchase or otherwise obtain health insurance. Those who do not will face fines.

The other relates more to the state’s budget problems.

It increases the share of each state’s Medicaid costs the federal government will pay. But that won’t occur for nearly a decade.

To qualify for those extra Medicaid funds, states are forbidden from scaling back their existing health programs. If a state does pull back from current coverage levels, it will lose all future federal Medicaid funds.

Arizona now gets about $2 from Washington for every $1 it spends on the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, this state’s Medicaid program.

Legislative budget staffers pegged the annual loss for failing to comply at $7 billion. That threat was enough to convince lawmakers, who had previously voted to eliminate about 330,000 people from the AHCCCS rolls to save about $1 billion a year, to rescind their action.

Brewer said much of the state’s budget deficit could be resolved if what she calls “ObamaCare’’ would be repealed or declared illegal and the state could cut eligibility for AHCCCS. She said Arizona has one of the most generous Medicaid programs in the nation.

Goddard refused to sue, rejecting arguments that the requirement amounts to an unconstitutional mandate on sovereign states. He said it is simply a condition for getting federal funding: If you take the money, you have to live with the conditions attached.

He also said there is nothing illegal about the requirement to obtain health insurance. Goddard said there is no criminal penalty for failing to comply, but only that those who choose to opt out must pay a fine.

Thursday’s ruling by the federal court judge in Florida lets the states pursue their legal theories of why the two key provisions are illegal.

One is based on the premise that the individual mandate is not within the power of Congress and does not fit within the federal government’s constitutional powers to regulate interstate commerce.

The other says that while states are technically free to opt-out of the expansion of Medicaid, it really amounts to coercion because the amount of federal dollars that they would have to give up would wreck their budgets.

Brewer said the flaws in the law are pointed up by the fact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has granted waivers to 30 companies and organizations, including McDonalds and Jack-in-the-Box, out of fear that the mandates within the law might result in these companies dropping coverage for their workers entirely.

“Why would they provide waivers to certain groups unless it creates major cost and service problems for them?’’ Brewer asked in her prepared statement. “States are facing similar cost and service challenges due to the mandate, only on a much larger scale.’’

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