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Update: Gov. Pawlenty asks Attorney General Lori Swanson to review ‘legal issues’ of federal health-care reform

Gov. Tim Pawlenty sent a letter today to Attorney General Lori Swanson asking her to review “legal issues” raised by the just-passed federal health-care-reform package.

In his letter (PDF), Pawlenty notes that 12 attorneys general “have indicated they plan to file lawsuits to block impllmention” of the package.

“It appears Congress may be overstepping its bounds by forcing individuals or businesses to buy insurance,” the governor wrote. “I respectfully request that you review the legal issues being raised by this unprecedented federal mandate and join other attorneys general to protect the constitutional rights of our citizens. These efforts will help maintain a proper balance in the relationship between states and the federal government.”

The attorney general’s office, through spokesman Ben Wogsland, issued what felt like an in-your-face response to the Republican governor’s letter.

For the moment, the office of DFLer Lori Swanson, will not act on the governor’s letter, he said.

“The legislation in question still has to be signed by the President and reconciliation has yet to be passed by the Senate,’’ Wogsland said in the statement.

“The individual mandate does not go into effect until 2014. Our Office has not yet read and anaylyzed the 2,400-page bill that passed the House yesterday,” Wogsland said. “The Attorney General’s Office operates in the legal arena, and we are not going to make any legal comments until we have had the opportunity to review the 2,400-page bill.’’

The governor’s letter was being written at the same time that numerous DFL legislative leaders have been praising the action by the feds, saying, among other things, that if the reform becomes law, it will play a major role in helping Minnesota balance its budget.

It’s not clear how many governors will file suit, but in the South, Southwest and Mountain states there have been a number of threats and legislative resolutions opposing the federal action. In some states, there have been efforts to consider putting resolutions opposing the federal action on the ballot in November.

Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Mike Haubrich on 03/22/2010 - 05:51 pm.

    I can’t wait until he drops out of the presidential race. His grandstanding is unbecoming.

  2. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 03/22/2010 - 07:14 pm.

    forcing individuals to buy insurance…

    Governor Pawlenty, do you drive a car? Doesn’t this require you to buy car insurance?

    Perhaps you should ask the AG to look into this?

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/22/2010 - 07:41 pm.

    He’s really original, isn’t he!

  4. Submitted by Thomas Edman on 03/22/2010 - 08:33 pm.

    So we don’t have enough money for GMAC or education or any number of other human services. At least he could be smart about it and let the other states throw away their money before we throw away ours. Sez some something about his core values, which don’t seem to have much to do with people. Oh wait…TPaw is an ambitious person. He cares about that I guess.

  5. Submitted by John N. Finn on 03/23/2010 - 09:50 am.

    If I heard correctly, MPR news quoted T-Paw as saying, in regards to Republican ideas, that prohibiting insurers from denying coverage for those with pre-existing conditions should be enacted. Although not stated, I assume he would further stipulate that somehow such coverage wouldn’t be prohibitively costly.

    I’d like to hear an explanation of how that would work if everyone isn’t required to be in the insurance pool. Suppose he’s just cynically pitching “something-for-nothing” talking points?

  6. Submitted by Dave Eldred on 03/23/2010 - 09:59 am.

    Interesting, John. Turns out TPaw wants something for nothing, just like everyone else.

    The individual mandate is key to keeping costs in line. If the healthy people aren’t in, costs will continue to go up. Whether you like insurance companies or hate ’em; that’s just a fact.

    I’d also like to hear him explain what part of the bill is unconstitutional, because it isn’t the individual mandate.

    I find it disgusting that Republicans have taken on the mantle of defending the constitution, considering they apparently are not familiar with it or how its interpretation. The attorneys general of the 50 states have better things to do than waste time on frivolous lawsuits.

  7. Submitted by Michelle Thompson on 03/23/2010 - 02:35 pm.

    The individual mandate is unconstitutional. Our very existence is not interstate commerce, and cannot be governed under interstate commerce law. If we choose not to purchase a product or a service, that is also not commerce. So we shouldn’t be penalized for simply not taking part in this scheme.

    Thanks to Pawlenty for pointing out this glaring issue to an AG who would serve the public better by actually reading the bill that’s in question.

  8. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 03/23/2010 - 04:02 pm.

    The claim that the individual mandate is unconstitutional is nonsense.

    Although its called a mandate, what we are really talking about is just a new income tax, which is something that falls under the power of the federal government.

    Start with the premise that everyone has to pay the new tax, which is the fine imposed for not obtaining health insurance. In lieu of paying that tax, however, you can instead purchase health insurance. Its similar to a tax deduction where a private expenditure (charitable donations, education expenses, home mortgage interest, etc.) can be used to reduce your income tax burden. The commerce clause may impact some portions of the bill, but it should not impact the individual mandate portion.

    If Pawlenty really thought this had any merit, he would have donw more than write to Lori Swanson – who he knows will do nothing – to review legal issues.

  9. Submitted by Michelle Thompson on 03/23/2010 - 04:31 pm.

    Unless the insurance will be paid for by every individual strictly via income tax, it is a demand that we pay a commercial entity (not a tax) for a service or be penalized via taxes. That is a mandate.

  10. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 03/23/2010 - 07:22 pm.

    “Unless the insurance will be paid for by every individual strictly via income tax, it is a demand that we pay a commercial entity (not a tax) for a service or be penalized via taxes. That is a mandate.”

    That’s nonsense. You can pay the tax. Or you can avoid the tax by buying health insurance. Just like you can avoid paying income tax by paying commerical entities like mortgage lenders.

    The Republicans pushing this (well, some of them at least) know this is frivolous, but its red meat for the base. You’ve got a bunch of people who don’t have the slightest understanding of constitutional law something to cling to now that they lost the vote.

    Do you not think the drafters of the bill considered the constitutional implications? They have lawyers on staff to do that you know.

  11. Submitted by Sharon Anderson on 03/23/2010 - 08:22 pm.$file/HealthCareReformLawsuit.pdf

    Here is the 23 page Brief of 12 AG’s, MN AG must do likewise, Heck at my age, paying Medicare and Humana now $148.00 monthly, it is cheaper to Opt Out and be fined and or Code Blue SEniors Beware of the Obama Health Care,

  12. Submitted by Michelle Thompson on 03/23/2010 - 09:01 pm.

    “You can pay the tax. Or you can avoid the tax by buying health insurance.” I choose not to give my money to such a commercial entity. And I choose the same penalty for that as I would receive for not giving my money to McDonald’s for a burger. That choice should not be under threat by this mandate.

  13. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 03/23/2010 - 09:33 pm.

    Well, what you think “should” happen is a different question from whether or not the law is constitutional. I can’t make you like the law. I can only tell you why the court isn’t going to throw it out.

    The thing about it is that once people realize that most of the claims made by opponents of the new health care law aren’t true – the most outrageous ones at least – the anger will subside. Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann can keep talking about death panels all they want, but it won’t change the fact that death panels aren’t in the law. If you have employer-based private health insurance now, odds are that is what you will continue to have.

    The truth is that we have an awful health care system in this country. Compared to the rest of the industrialized world we pay more and get less – we are getting ripped off. The problem is that the places where people get more for their health care dollars (and keep more of their money) have more government involvement than we do. For some reason, Americans are content to pay more and get less simply to avoid having the government involved. Until now, I guess.

  14. Submitted by Michelle Thompson on 03/23/2010 - 10:49 pm.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on law interpretation here, and let it be handled in the courts. As far as employer subsidized health insurance, here’s a thought. Many employers offer to pay a portion of the cost of health insurance as a benefits package, to complement salaries. Some of those salaries don’t amount to much. Under this new law, we will have to pay a tax on what are deemed “Cadillac plans.” Unfortunately, many of the most commonly offered plans, those offered to people not making huge salaries, will be considered Cadillac plans. So those who can least afford it will now be penalized that way. But it’s OK to take food off of their tables to boost insurance co’s profits and to provide insurance (not care) to others. Tell me again how this benefits the middle class.

  15. Submitted by Dave Eldred on 03/24/2010 - 10:57 am.

    With all due respect, Ms. Thompson, Mr. Hintz is right: this is simply not unconstitutional. The Constituion gives the federal goverment taxing powers; that is precisely what they are doing to “enforce” (although that really isn’t the appropriate word) the individual mandate. There is nothing unconstitutional about it.

    If you can make out a case for why that isn’t so, I would be interested in hearing it.

    I press because in the last few months, I have heard all sorts of claims that President Obama has taken all sorts of actions that are unconstitutional, yet I have yet to hear one argument explaining how any of his actions are violative of the constitution that actually relies on…the constitution.

  16. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 03/24/2010 - 03:53 pm.

    If the U.S. government’s mandate is to provide for the “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” of the American people, and not just for thosethose who can afford those three, then we need a mandated “tax” or whatever you want to call it that requires all citizens to pitch in to help our government–who, after all, are US–achieve the goals.

  17. Submitted by Michelle Thompson on 03/24/2010 - 07:44 pm.

    The pursuit of happiness is very different from the guarantee of happiness. You are quite free to pursue happiness no matter how much money you have.

  18. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 03/24/2010 - 09:00 pm.

    Michelle, your concerns on the increased cost of health plans are well taken. Obviously when you cover 30 million more people and prevent insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and all the other changes, its going to cost money. The goal of the legislation is to obtain that money from those who can afford to pay it, but that may not always happen.

    My hope is that this is not the end of health care reform, and that we can do some things – hopefully with Republican involvement this time around – that will reduce health care costs. The need for health care reform wasn’t just about the fact that we are leaving a lot of people behind. It was about the fact that we pay more than any other industrialized nation for health care, but still manage to get worse results. Health care reform should ultimately benefit everyone, and not just the uninsured.

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