Fla. Judge Strikes Down Health Care Overhaul; Alaska One of 26 States in Lawsuit
Gov. Sean Parnell, emboldened by a federal judge's order Monday, has asked federal agencies to pause health care reform.
JUNEAU - Gov. Sean Parnell, emboldened by a federal judge's order Monday, has asked federal agencies to pause health care reform.
Parnell's request came hours after the state found itself on the winning side of the court decision, which called last year's health care reform unconstitutional.
The reform law, which requires all able U.S. citizens to obtain health insurance, has been rejected twice and upheld twice in the lower courts. All sides say it'll fall to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide.
"Because the authority of Congress to enact the mandatory health insurance provisions has been ruled unconstitutional, I urge the federal government to voluntarily suspend all efforts to implement these provisions until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue," said Parnell.
Critics have accused the governor of dragging his feet in implementing the reforms and on Monday said he was throwing stones rather than offering solutions.
Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, said escalating drug and medical costs threaten to injure the state's relatively healthy financial position. Guttenberg, who has pitched a handful of bills aimed at lowering prescription drug costs here, challenged Parnell to take a more constructive approach toward health care issues at the state and national levels.
"All I've seen is, 'We don't want national health care reform,'" he said. "I want to know when he's going to tackle that problem" - high health care costs - "because as far as I can tell he's not doing it."
The governor said while he was "concerned about rising health care costs, solutions have to be constitutional."
Parnell announced last April the state would join others in the lawsuit. He called the issue a key point in the historic debate about the power-sharing relationship between states and Washington, D.C.
Parnell called the individual mandate a case of inappropriate "federal encroachment."
Florida's U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, in his decision Monday, said he "reluctantly" rejected Congress' decision to mandate insurance. The mandate is a linchpin of the 2010 health care reform.
"At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled 'The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,'" Vinson wrote.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a statement the ruling "confirms what many of us have been saying about the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the law. Clearly, this is not the final word on the matter, and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court will be the final arbitrator."
Alaska filed suit with 20 other states in April 2010, and six more joined later.
The Alaska Department of Law, in a 49-page memorandum on April 19, said the state should reject Congress' decision to "shortcut" the federal separation of powers through its insurance mandate.
Vinson's decision said the mandate applied the federal government's power to regulate commerce too broadly. He pointed to the states' argument that "not even in the context of insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program did Congress mandate that all homeowners buy flood insurance directly from a private company."