Whitman decries national health care overhaul

Meg Whitman (R)

Jerry Brown (D)

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline)-Meg Whitman, the leading Republican candidate for California governor, said Tuesday the state attorney general should sue over the recently enacted national health care plan.

Whitman said the plan signed last week by President Barack Obama will cost the Golden State billions of dollars to enroll more low-income residents into MediCal at a time when California is facing a mammoth budget hole, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"This will create another $3-billion unfunded mandate for California at a time when we can least afford it," Whitman was quoted by the newspaper as saying at a campaign event in Redondo Beach, Calif.

Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, did offer praise for provisions in the law that will ban insurance companies from cancelling patients once they become ill and denying coverage for patients with preexisting conditions.

Asked whether as governor she would "force" the attorney general to challenge the plan, as have more than a dozen other state attorneys general, Whitman said yes, but conceded that she would not have the authority to force the state's chief legal officer's hand in the matter.

"I wouldn't order him to; I would strongly encourage him to," she said. "I don't think you can actually order the attorney general."

Interestingly, the Democratic candidate for governor is Jerry Brown, the state's current attorney general. He has scoffed at the idea of challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Not the case for more than a dozen other attorneys general, however.

A week ago, just moments after Obama signed the health care overhaul into law, the state attorneys general -- all Republicans but one -- filed a lawsuit in Florida, challenging the constitutionality of a provision that will require Americans to have medical insurance.

The attorneys general say when the Democratic-led Congress approved the individual mandate, they overstepped their authority under the Commerce Clause. Under the law, beginning in 2014, individuals who flout the mandate face an annual penalty of $695, while employers could face penalties of $2,000 per worker for not offering affordable health coverage.

The health care overhaul will add about 16 million people to the states' Medicaid rolls and would subsidize private health coverage for low- and middle-income Americans. The law marks the most significant expansion of medical care in the United States since Congress created Medicare in 1965 for the nation's elderly and disabled.

Parties to the lawsuit are the AGs from Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota and Washington.

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is the only Democrat who joined Republicans in their effort to block the new health care law. Virginia's attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, filed a separate lawsuit in his state.

"The health care reform bill, with its insurance mandate, creates a conflict of laws between the federal government and Virginia. Normally, such conflicts are decided in favor of the federal government, but because we believe the federal law is unconstitutional, Virginia's law should prevail," Cuccinelli said last week.

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