Texas AG outlines objections to Senate health care bill

Chris Rizo Jan. 6, 2010, 2:45pm

Greg Abbott (R)

Barbara Ann Radnofsky (D)

AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline)-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Wednesday challenged provision of the health care overhaul bill recently approved by the U.S. Senate.

The Republican sent letters to U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and John Cornyn, R-Texas, outlining his legal objections. He specifically questioned a provision that exempts Nebraska from having to pay Medicaid expense increases.

The language was inserted into the Senate bill to gain the support of Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who offered the 60th and final vote needed to pass the plan aimed at expanding access to health care and changing the way U.S. health insurance companies do business.

The legislation requires that states provide Medicaid coverage to anyone making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level -- a move that will expand the number of Medicaid-eligible persons throughout the country and increase the financial burden on the states since they bankroll part of the program.

"If enacted, the Senate version of H.R. 3590 would impose billions of dollars of new Medicaid obligations on 49 states while singling out only one state for special treatment," wrote Abbott, a former state Supreme Court justice.

In his letter, Abbott also challenged the constitutionality of a provision in the bill that creates individual mandates for health insurance.

"This unprecedented congressional mandate threatens individual liberty and raises serious constitutional questions," Abbott wrote.

Abbott is seeking reelection this year. His Democratic challenger, Barbara Ann Radnofsky, has accused him of political grandstanding for raising objections to the federal health care bill, as have other Republican state attorneys general.

"Even if the bill emerged as a law, the Texas attorney general has no power to intervene. He has no standing, legally, to challenge the law or political horse-trading in the U.S. Senate. It is bad lawyering, grandstanding with no legal basis," Radnofsky said in a statement.

She added: "If the Texas attorney general had standing, he should have fought against unfair distribution of our federal highway tax dollars. Texas has been and remains a net donor to the other states."

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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