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Feb. 1, 2011
TOPEKA Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is calling the latest federal court ruling on the health reform law “a victory for the rule of law and individual liberty.”
Schmidt, a Republican, said Monday’s ruling in Florida by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson validated the state’s position that the reform law’s requirement that virtually all Americans obtain health insurance is unconstitutional.
“It’s clearly good news from the standpoint of Kansas’ involvement in this lawsuit and for those of us who believe the federal government has to color within the lines when it makes policy decisions,” Schmidt said in an interview with the KHI News Service.
Former Democratic Attorney General Steve Six declined to join other states in challenging the Affordable Care Act. Schmidt made that an issue in his campaign to unseat Six and petitioned to join the Florida lawsuit soon after taking office. Judge Vinson granted the state’s motion on Jan. 19, 2011, bringing the total number of states involved in the challenge to 26.
On Monday, Vinson became the fourth federal judge to issue a ruling on the law and the second to declare it unconstitutional. Two judges, one in Michigan and another in Virginia, responding to other challenges, upheld the law.
“Obviously the district courts have been mixed,” Schmidt said. “The appeals will make their way up and ultimately I believe the U.S. Supreme Court will give us an answer on what the constitutional limits are on the power of the federal government when it comes to regulating commerce.”
Vinson said he regretted having to strike down the entire law but said it was necessary because Congress didn’t include a “severability clause” in the legislation.
“This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I’m aware that it will have indeterminable implications,” Vinson wrote in his decision. “At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it’s hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”
Schmidt said the challenge filed by the states focused on the individual mandate and the law’s dramatic expansion of Medicaid, the cost of which is shared by states and the federal government. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that both the mandate and expanding the number of low- and moderate-income Americans eligible for Medicaid are central to the law’s objective of extending health coverage to 32 million more people by 2019.
Schmidt said he’s focused on the legal issues, not the ongoing health policy debate.
“I’ll leave the health policy debates to people who are expert in health policy, I’m focused on the legal questions involved here,” Schmidt said. “And as Judge Vinson said today, in many ways this debate has nothing to do with health care policy, it has everything to do with the boundaries of our constitution and that’s the precedent I’m focused on.”