Conway decides against health care reform challenge

John O'Brien Apr. 2, 2010, 4:00pm


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Legal Newsline) - Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway will not join in the challenge of recently passed federal health care reform, even though he termed one of its provisions "distasteful" four months ago.

Conway sent a letter to state House and Senate Republicans Tuesday, arguing that "decades of jurisprudence regarding the Commerce Clause" of the U.S. Constitution allows Congress to regulate the health insurance system.

A group of attorneys general has filed a challenge to the legislation, signed into law last week by President Barack Obama, in Florida federal court. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has his own challenge in Virginia federal court.

"(T)his rush to the courthouse is nothing new," said Conway, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate.

"Historically, opponents of reform have turned to the courts when major legislation that they disagree with is enacted by the Congress...

"Like those challenges, the lawsuits that have been filed this week in an attempt to block health care reform are without merit."

In January, after news of the so-called "Cornhusker Kickback" was broken, Conway responded to a similar request by saying he would wait until the legislation was passed to decide on filing any formal challenge.

A provision in the health care plan exempts Nebraska from having to pay Medicaid expense increases. The language was inserted into the bill to gain the support of Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska, who offered the 60th and final vote needed to pass the plan.

It was that provision that Conway called "distasteful."

"You can trust that I will closely be monitoring the debate over this provision and will consider whether action by my office is necessary to protect Kentucky's Medicaid program," Conway said then.

"In doing so, I am acting in the best interests of our Commonwealth and without regard for political party."

The AGs who are challenging the legislation say it unfairly contains a mandate for individuals to have health insurance coverage or face an annual penalty of $695.

Businesses with more than 50 workers would have to provide coverage or pay a $2,000-a-worker penalty if any of their employees get government-subsidized plans on their own.

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