HHS Secretary Says State AGs Are Challenging Health Care Law to Further Their Political Careers

By Nicholas Ballasy | April 6, 2010 | 7:48 PM EDT

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on Capitol Hill on Feb. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Cenetafile)

(CNSNews.com) – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that most of the 14 state attorneys-general who have filed legal challenges against the new health care law requiring every American to buy health insurance are doing so because they aspire to “higher office.” 

Speaking at the National Pres Club in Washington on Tuesday, Sebelius also said the Obama administration is confident that the law will withstand the challenges.

The AGs have filed suit, arguing that the federal government does not have the constitutional authority to require citizens to purchase health insurance. 

During a question-and-answer session, Sebelius was asked,  “Your first statement that you would have jumped at this opportunity had you been governor of the state when this [health] plan came through; several governors and several states have not jumped at this opportunity and, in fact, they are suing the government trying to stop this plan. Kansas is not one of them. But several states are, and with them gearing up for a big legal battle. Why do you think this happened and do you fear that these lawsuits could slow the progress of health reform?”


Sebelius, the former governor of Kansas, said, “Well, I think that the vast majority of lawsuits have been filed by attorneys general in states where they have also had some interest in higher office -- and in consultation with our legal team and their consultation with the Justice Department, first of all, we are confident that the law is on solid constitutional ground, on firm grounds.”
“I’m going to let the lawyers go debate the situation,” said Sebelius. “Our job really is to focus on talking to the American people about what really is in the bill, how the law will work to their benefit, what’s available for them. And that’s really where we’re going to spend our time and energy. But we’re confident that the legal standing of the law is solid and that this has more to do with politics than with policy.”
Later in the question-and-answer session, Sebelius called the new health care law a “state friendly bill” but added that it will create “new costs” for states. She argued that these new costs are “far balanced” by “new benefits” to the states’ citizens.
“I’ve also served as a governor and I understand the kinds of budget challenges that states across the country are facing,” she said, “and what I’ve said over and over again is that this bill is actually an incredibly state-friendly bill.”
“There’s no question that as the market begins to expand in 2014, a part of the bill makes that health care coverage a partnership between the states and federal government, but for the three years following 2014, the federal government picks up 100 percent of the bill,” said Sebelius. “And after that, states start paying a share, which rises to the top total of 10 percent by 2020. So, there are some new costs in insurance expansion borne by the state. But I would argue that those costs are far balanced by new benefits to states.”
Sebelius then gave examples of what she called “new benefits to the states.”
She said: “Less spending on compensated care, which states spend on each and every day; saving from reduced insurance paper work; more resources from the federal government to cover children in every state; more money back from the drug callback; more money to crack down on fraud and abuse and that doesn’t even count the people who get better care, live healthier lives and end up as more productive workers.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the federal government has never before mandated that Americans buy any good or service. In 1994, when Congress was considering a universal health care plan formulated by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, the CBO studied the plan’s provision that would have forced individuals to buy health insurance and determined it was an unprecedented act.

The CBO stated: “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States. An individual mandate would have two features that, in combination, would make it unique. First, it would impose a duty on individuals as members of society. Second, it would require people to purchase a specific service that would be heavily regulated by the federal government.”