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Abbott’s bogus health care claims

If there’s an opportunity to play politics, you can be sure AG Greg Abbott will take it.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Tuesday that the push in Washington to force most Americans to buy health insurance may violate the U.S. Constitution and eventually trigger a lawsuit.

Abbott and 13 other attorneys general have already raised constitutional questions about another provision in the legislation, dubbed the “Nebraska Compromise.” If passed, that stipulation would shield Nebraska — but not other states — from the cost of expanding Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the poor.

Now, Abbott warns Texas and possibly other states could sue the federal government over the measure requiring nearly all Americans to buy insurance. The warning from Abbott, a Republican, comes as Congress enters the final stages of negotiations over the health care legislation, Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature domestic initiative.

Just curious here, but has Abbott ever expressed any concern over the legal requirement to buy auto insurance, or for some homeowners to buy flood insurance or mortgage protection insurance? I didn’t think so. Here’s a response in the Huffington Post from Abbott’s opponent, Barbara Radnofsky. Any attorneys want to jump in here?

UPDATE: Andre Pineda brings some historical perspective.

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8 Comments

  1. John Cobarruvias says:

    Yes. I would like to jump in.

    From a legal standpoint firmly embedded in case law, Attorney Greg Abbott is an idiot.

  2. Joe White says:

    There’s a difference that you’re ignoring, Kuff. One can choose not to drive a vehicle, therefore avoiding auto insurance. One can choose housing choices that obviate the requirement for flood insurance or mortgage protection insurance. But one cannot live in the US and not buy health insurance under this proposal.

  3. John says:

    good points Joe. Plus part of the rationale behind auto insurance is if I am driving and then hit someone (my fault) they need to have some protection to compensate for my recklesness. But I don’t understand how my walking around without health insurance puts others in danger/peril where they would need some protection from my actions.

  4. JJMB says:

    Here’s a different two cents.

    Seems to me that there is a reason that only states have, until this point, been able to require that citizens purchase something (like car insurance). That reason is the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which limits what the federal government can do, leaving all else to the states. I have seen news reports that the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, which assists Congress in passing laws, has itself raised the Commerce Clause question about this provision. While I haven’t researched it myself, there appears to be a real concern here.

    Calling the AG “bogus” or “an idiot” isn’t really a very good substitute for constitutional law analysis. And while the AG may ultimately lose — I have no doubt that it is a complicated issue and 50 Supreme Court cases can be cited on one side or another –having the CRS raise the issue seems to be to take it out of the category of baseless partisan attack (which attacks from either side, I generally dislike).

    As for the Nebraska exception, imagine a Republican Prez and Congress. Imagine that the US Federal tax rate is lowered by 10 percentage points for a certain number of specified states that, surprise surprise, have elected both of their Senators from the Republican party. Do you think Dems should have a Constitutional way to attack that law? There is unanimous Supreme Court precedent that prohibits states from being discriminated against by federal law absent a compelling reason (I think the Civil Rights Act had to qualify under this standard). Or, in my hypothetical, do you think the Dems should just be screwed because they are in the minority? I kind of thought that Constitutional arguments were sort of nice to have around to protect the minority.

    But that’s just my two cents.

  5. One key problem with the comparison to auto insurance is that while you can choose not to buy a vehicle and not to drive, you have only some level of control as to whether you will be hit by a car or will get seriously ill. If you are not insured in these situations, the hospital emergency will still need to treat you or risk being sued and as a result, they have costs without the ability to obtain payment. They cannot easily deny treating you because of your lack of proof of insurance for the same reason. As a result, the only way to protect the public purse strings is to ensure that all people have some level of minimal coverage.

  6. Joe White says:

    Wellescent: why is it the government’s responsibility to pay for those who do not have health coverage?

  7. mollusk says:

    Actually, the Commerce Clause grants Congress the power to regulate interstate and international commerce. What constitutes “interstate commerce” has been a moving target over the years, but it is generally evaluated based upon a particular activity’s relationship to activity across state lines – which may frequently be what looks like a tangential relationship.

    I’m not sure there’s a whole lot to be gained by over analyzing any particular part of what continues to be a work in progress, at least at this stage.

  8. Artemusg says:

    Considering that the health care bill hasn’t been passed yet, it does make me wonder why AG Abbott’s real point is? Except that I already know the answer. To oppose, as do all Republicans, every single thing the Obama administration proposes.