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Spin Control

McKenna v. health care reform

OLYMPIA--Things were happening so fast and furious Tuesday with Attorney General Rob McKenna's opting in to a lawsuit against federal health care reform that not everything could fit into this morning's print edition story.

Based on the number of comments these stories are generating, there may be some appetite for more information. We're more than happy to oblige.

So here's a recap:

McKenna announced on Monday he was joining other states in challenging the health care reform that passed on Sunday and was being signed on Tuesday. He was out of town in the morning, and his office couldn't confirm it until 1 p.m.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said at 1:30 p.m. Monday that McKenna hadn't consulted with her about filing a lawsuit, and she thought he was getting in on the wrong side of the fight because Washington stands to benefit from health care reform. Her office issued a statement a few hours later.

Several other Democrats weighed in that afternoon and evening, including State Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, and U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee. Jumping in on behalf of McKenna was Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley. (Yes, Shea's political affiliation was incorrect in Tuesday morning's story. We apologize to members of both parties who were incensed, and thank them for reading all the way to the bottom of the story.)

Go inside the blog to read full texts of these statements. Tuesday recap continues above.

1125 Washington Street SE · PO Box 40100 · Olympia WA 98504-0100

March 22, 2010

McKenna will join lawsuit to protect Washington citizens against new health care mandates

OLYMPIA—Attorney General Rob McKenna today issued the following statement about joining a multi-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the recently-approved federal health care measure, once it is signed into law.

“I believe this new federal health care measure unconstitutionally imposes new requirements on our state and on its citizens. This unprecedented federal mandate, requiring all Washingtonians to purchase health insurance, violates the Commerce Clause and the 10th amendment of the US Constitution.

“I’m concerned that the measure unconstitutionally requires all Washingtonians to purchase health insurance and places an extraordinary burden on our state budget by requiring Washington to expand its Medicaid eligibility standards in violation of our state’s rights guaranteed under the10th amendment.”


Gov. Gregoire’s statement on Attorney General’s lawsuit against health care reform

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire issued the following statement today regarding news of Washington state’s Attorney General Rob McKenna’s decision to file a lawsuit against the health care reform law passed by Congress yesterday:

“I’m disappointed that the Attorney General would participate in a lawsuit to repeal a law that would help 1.5 million Washingtonians get access to affordable, quality health care.

“I completely disagree with the Attorney General’s decision and he does not represent me.

“He doesn’t represent the people of Washington who would get assistance so they could afford quality health insurance.  He doesn’t represent the thousands of small businesses that would benefit from tax credits to provide coverage for their employees.  He doesn’t represent the thousands who will no longer be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.  He doesn’t represent the half million young people in our state who would be covered under their parents plan until they are 26.  He doesn’t represent our state’s Medicare recipients.  He doesn’t represent the taxpayers of Washington.

“This is landmark legislation that will cover over 32 million Americans who don’t have health care.  I have made it clear to the Attorney General that I will actively oppose this lawsuit if it moves forward.”

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Pelz to McKenna: "Keep your hands off of our Health Care"

 Washington State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz blasted Attorney General Rob McKenna for threatening to sue to stop the implementation of National Health Insurance Reform, adopted last night by Congress. 

 According to the Christian Science Monitor, McKenna participated in a conference call last night with Attorneys General where they developed a plan to sue to block the implementation of the new law which will make access to health care a right for all Americans.

 "Keep your hands off of our health care coverage Mr. McKenna.", said Pelz.  "You and your wife and you children can see a doctor when they are sick, but for over 400,000 people in Washington that is not the case.  Each year around 1,000 residents of our state die because they do not have health care coverage."  1

 According to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Washington residents will benefit greatly from the Health Insurance Reform Bill.  It will: 2

Text Box: •	Give tax credits and other assistance to up to 1,455,000 families to help them afford coverage.
•	Give tax credits and other assistance to up to 163,600 small businesses to help them afford coverage.
•	Improve Medicare for 910,000 beneficiaries, including closing the donut hole.
•	Extend coverage to 442,500 uninsured residents.
•	Guarantee that 105,200 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.
•	Protect 10,700 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.
•	Allow 526,000 young adults to obtain coverage on their parents’ insurance plans.
•	Provide millions of dollars in new funding for 229 community health centers.
•	Reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and other health care providers by $327,000,000 annually.

The Monitor reported that the AG's will challenge the bill's inclusion of a federal mandate requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance.  "We require all Americans to pay for Social Security and to pay for Medicare.", said Pelz.  "Is McKenna going to challenge those two programs also?".

 "Rob McKenna should be more concerned about the health of Washington's families than about the ideology of his Right Wing Republican backers.", concluded Pelz. 


Statement by Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler re: Attorney General Rob McKenna’s plan to oppose the federal health reform bill in court

 “I was deeply disappointed to hear that Attorney General McKenna plans to fight the federal health-reform legislation.

 Washington is home to nearly 1 million people with no health coverage. The status quo is simply unsustainable, both financially and morally. Far too many families – through no fault of their own –are one diagnosis away from bankruptcy.

 The battle over health care has been far too bitter and partisan. Personal mandates have been talked about over the years by both Democrats and Republicans, including the late Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I., who proposed an individual mandate in 1993.

 It’s my hope that we come together as a state to enact reform, rather than let families continue to suffer while lawyers battle in the courts.”


For Immediate Release 
March 23, 2010                                                                                     Rep. Inslee: Mckenna Lawsuit Not the Washington Way

 Washington, DC – This evening, Rep. Jay Inslee (WA-01) released the following statement regarding news that Washington State Attorney General Rob Mckenna would be joining in a lawsuit to deem health insurance reform, recently passed by both the House and Senate, to be unconstitutional:

 “We fought over 2,000 insurance industry lobbyists in Washington DC to protect Washingtonians health care, we shouldn’t have to fight our own Attorney General too.  Stripping families of their legal rights to insurance, may be the South Carolina way, may be the insurance company way, may be the Tea Party way, but it’s not the Washington way. 

 “If the Rob Mckenna had his way, he would remove the cornerstone of this house of health, bringing down all the rights and protections we have fought so hard to build.  Rob Mckenna would leave Washingtonians naked and allow insurance companies to deny them care for a preexisting condition or strip them of coverage after they get sick.  That is not the Washington way.  We should be disappointed that our attorney general has chosen to be in league with insurance companies and not Washingtonians.

 “Rob Mckenna does not know, or does not care that a significant part of this comprehensive reform includes the solution to decades of Medicare reimbursement disparity for Washington health care providers and hospitals, and more importantly a new structure for health care spending that will reward quality care, reduce the deficit and save families money.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                        March 22, 2010

Shea lauds McKenna for joining in lawsuit, vows to fight federal health care legislation at all levels

Rep. Matt Shea today vowed to fight the federal health care measure Congressional Democrats passed Sunday night, and praised Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna for joining in a lawsuit to protect citizens against its mandates.

Shea, who is the lead sponsor of 10th Amendment state sovereignty legislation, said this is the beginning of a fight that will emerge from the grassroots level and through Washington state, all the way to Washington, D.C.

"We will fight this attempted federal takeover of our health care system at all levels, from neighborhoods to cities, from the courthouse to the Legislature, state by state and county by county, because it is a ruthless, unconstitutional mandate that tramples on the individual rights and state sovereignty," said Shea, R-Spokane Valley.

"I've received e-mails and phone calls from people who say this is a 'dark day.' I don't see it that way. I see it as a day of hope and the beginning of states finally telling the federal government they've had enough," said Shea. "I commend Attorney General Rob McKenna for joining in a multi-state lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of these federal health care mandates. This bill will not be implemented once these lawsuits are filed. It will place this measure on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue. Based on my reading of past court decisions, there are a myriad of grounds to rule this bill unconstitutional."

Shea is the author of a package of bills introduced in January which sought to emphasize and enforce the 10th Amendment, including House Bill 2669, also known as “The Washington state Health Care Freedom Act of 2010.”  The measure would protect employers and workers from possible fines levied at the federal level for not participating in a socialized medicine plan.

"The federal health care legislation is unconstitutional for several reasons. First, you cannot force someone to sign a contract. That's a basic freedom of will. Second, the federal government cannot and does not have the power to regulate inaction. In other words, they cannot fine or imprison someone for refusing to participate in the plan," noted Shea. "The federal government only has the power to regulate interstate commerce. The decision not to participate in a government plan is a non-commerce, non-economic activity, and therefore, the federal government has no jurisdiction. Third, the federal government cannot compel a state to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. Numerous courts have ruled this is a violation of the 10th Amendment."

Shea noted the Idaho Health Freedom Act is very similar to his legislation. Just last week, Gov. Butch Otter signed that measure into law, blocking any individual mandate to secure health insurance and giving the state the right to sue to protect that freedom. Shea said he will continue to pursue the Washington state legislation in conjunction with McKenna's lawsuit.

"God bless Idaho for passing this legislation. It sets the stage for a big confrontation with the U.S. federal government. I will also continue to push this bill here in Washington, because it gives us a better constitutional leg to stand on if we affirmatively opt out of this federal regulatory scheme. The federal government is going to lose this fight because we stand on the constitution and we will be placing them back into their constitutionally-designed box," Shea concluded.

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.