We can all agree that health care reform is necessary.
As Pennsylvania's attorney general, I have made health care a priority. In 2009 alone, the attorney general's Health Care Section assisted more than 4,700 consumers and saved Pennsylvanians more than $4.2 million.
In addition to providing such direct services to consumers, I believe we must work together in a bipartisan fashion to develop legislative solutions instead of engaging in mere rhetoric.
I believe we need meaningful health care reform in this country and that Pennsylvanians deserve access to quality health care.
However, it is my belief that the Health Care Reform law as written is unconstitutional, and Congress has exceeded its authority by requiring citizens to purchase government-approved health insurance. Those who fail to comply with the mandate will be punished with an annual tax penalty.
The individual mandate contained in the legislation is unprecedented and will have implications for the future of American liberty – far beyond health care.
If Congress is permitted to impose its will on the citizens of our country and this commonwealth without the proper constitutional foundation, what will prevent Congress from enacting other mandates? Will they be permitted to compel citizens to purchase certain products, further dictate individual choices and penetrate even deeper into the personal lives of all American citizens, under the guise that it is in the public's best interest?
It begs the question: Do the ends justify the means?
I understand there is great passion on both sides of this issue.
Critics argue that filing such a challenge is an attempt to derail health care reform; however, they are missing the point. This litigation is not about health care reform but calls for a judicial determination of whether Congress exceeded its authority under the U.S. Constitution.
Last month, Attorney General Tom Corbett joined other attorneys general in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the recently passed health care bill. I sent a letter, signed by about 70 of my Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate, asking him to remove his name and the services of his office from the lawsuit. I argued, among other things, that the health care law provided funding for services Pennsylvania is required to provide, and that if he were successful, it would blow a hole in the state's budget.
Mr. Corbett responded, indicating he finds the health care bill, and specifically the individual mandate to purchase insurance, to be a violation of the 10th Amendment.
I do not question his sincerity. Further, although I strongly disagree with the merits of his constitutional assertions, my purpose is not to debate the matter. I instead argue that whatever the merits of his views and however sincerely held, it is simply inappropriate for the attorney general to join this lawsuit.
At the very least, he should have acted with the other branches of our state government rather than unilaterally committing state resources to an expensive lawsuit, which could cost Pennsylvania billions of dollars. It is the Legislature and governor who will pick up the pieces if Mr. Corbett's lawsuit is successful. Further, the majority of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation and both U.S. Senators supported the health care bill, as does Gov. Rendell, who must implement it. That suggests Mr. Corbett is isolated in his views and indifferent to the consequences of his actions.
Another way of stating this argument about Mr. Corbett's decision to speak for Pennsylvania in this litigation is:
Who asked him?He is flaunting the will of the clear majority of elected officials charged with resolving the political questions and policy implications of this new law.
All of this is unnecessary. This lawsuit will proceed and the court's decision will be binding on Pennsylvania with or without Mr. Corbett's name on it, which begs the question of why he felt it necessary to invest Pennsylvania resources in this endeavor. Mr. Corbett is using the tax dollars of people without health care to try to stop those same people from getting health insurance. He is doing so despite the fact that his involvement is irrelevant and well beyond his proper role as an elected official. He should stop.Corbett, Tom (Attorney General, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania); Leach, Daylin (Pennsylvania State Senator). “POINT/COUNTERPOUNT – Is health care suit a valid challenge?” The Morning Call (Lehigh Valley, PA). April 11, 2010. Available online as of 2010-04-13.