ST. LOUIS (Legal Newsline) - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has decided not to get involved in his state's challenge of federal health care reform.
Koster filed a notice of withdrawal of his motion to intervene in the lawsuit field by Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. Koster, a Republican-turned-Democrat, asked a federal judge to allow him to intervene in July.
Since then, Missouri voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of the Health Care Freedom Act, which authorizes Missourians to opt out of the federal health care plan. The measure earned 71 percent of the vote on Aug. 3.
Kinder filed the suit with three individuals who say they will have less access to affordable health care under the reform, signed into law by President Barack Obama in March. Missouri is the 21st state to challenge the law.
"In his role as the exclusive representative of the state in litigation - a role that potentially is being subverted by the instant litigation - the Attorney General has an interest in these proceedings," Koster wrote.
"This interest addresses the core functions of the Attorney General's Office and it gives rise to a critical, fundamental question: Who speaks for the state of Missouri in the courts?"
Kinder's fellow plaintiffs are:
-A woman with an 8-year-old autistic son who says the reform does not require insurance companies to provide coverage of autism-related treatments;
-A woman in her early 20s who will have to purchase health insurance which covers smoking cessation and substance abuse even though she does not smoke or drink; and
-A woman who will no longer be able to receive "Medicare Advantage" coverage even though individuals living in Florida are allowed to.
"This section of the health care law has been referred to as the 'Gator-Aid' provision," a release from Kinder's office says.
"It is neither fair or constitutional that Dale Morris is denied Medicare Advantage while a similarly situated resident of Florida is allowed to keep their Medicare advantage simply because Congress cut some back-room deal. The constitution requires all citizens to be treated equally and we ask the court to strike down this unconstitutional provision."
Nineteen states, including Florida, are challenging a $695 annual penalty that will be imposed on individuals who do not purchase health insurance. The state of Virginia is defending a state law that says none of its residents can be penalized for not purchasing health insurance.
"Missourians have less health care coverage after the federal law was passed than they did before it was passed," Kinder said. "The Missourians joining me in this case - and many thousands like them - now have less and more expensive health care."
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at email@example.com.