Cuccinelli: Health care challenge will cost almost nothing

By John O'Brien | Mar 31, 2010


RICHMOND (Legal Newsline) - Pressed for an answer by state Democrats, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said Tuesday his challenge to federal health care reform will cost no more than the filing fee.

State Democrats had submitted a Freedom of Information Act request as part of their effort to criticize Cuccinelli's suit, filed last week in Virginia federal court. They also have posted a petition on the Democratic Party's Web site that calls the challenge "frivolous."

Cuccinelli said the suit will cost $350, the cost of filing it. He has not hired outside counsel to represent the state.

Cuccinelli says a recently passed Virginia law prevents the federal government from being able to require Virginians purchase health insurance.

"The Attorney General of Virginia has a duty to defend all validly enacted Virginia laws from any challenge or unconstitutional encroachment, and that's what I intend to do with the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act," Cuccinelli said.

The legislation 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.

"With this law, the federal government will force citizens to buy health insurance, claiming it has the authority to do so because of its power to regulate interstate commerce," Cuccinelli said.

"We contend that if a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person - by definition - is not engaging in commerce, and therefore, is not subject to a federal mandate."

A group of state attorneys general filed a separate lawsuit in Florida federal court.

Cuccinelli said the lawsuit would save the state about $1.1 billion from 2015-2022 if it is successful. That $1.1 billion figure represents new Medicaid requirements and does not take into account tax and fee savings to those who would have to pay them if they do not purchase health insurance..

Cuccinelli said the state will not have to pay for discovery or expert witnesses because the case is centered around a constitutional argument.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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