Health care reform
3:15 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Court's ruling on McKenna's health care suit said to sow confusion

In a unanimous ruling, the Washington State Supreme court says Attorney General Rob McKenna has the authority to challenge the new federal health care law. The high court denied the City of Seattle’s request to remove Washington from the multi-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law.

In a conference call with reporters, McKenna emphasized he wasn’t trying to overturn the entire health care act, just the individual mandate to buy health insurance, which he believes to be unconstitutional.

"I said from the very day we filed it that I believed the mandate, if struck down as unconstitutional, be severed from the rest of the law.  And, you know, that is a position I’ve taken from the very beginning of this case and it was validated by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals when they severed it, rather than strike down the entire law."

The State Supreme court ruled that state law grants the Attorney General discretionary authority to act in any court on “a matter of public concern” and that the federal health care act was of public concern.

Seattle City Attorney Pet Holmes said the court sowed the seeds of future confusion by sidestepping the question of who can use the state’s name when the Governor and Attorney General are on opposite sides of a lawsuit.

"I respectfully disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision," Holmes said in a press release. "Attorney General McKenna dragged Washington state into a Tea-Party-inspired lawsuit that will, if successful, prevent millions of Americans from obtaining the health care they will have access to under the Affordable Care Act. He did this against the express wishes of and without first consulting the Governor, the Insurance Commissioner, the House Speaker, and the Senate Majority Leader."

The Associated Press reported that the justices left open the possibility that the governor could intervene to stop McKenna's action. However, Gov. Chris Gregoire says she will not try to halt McKenna's challenge. She said in a statement this afternoon that she is focused on presenting the courts with an argument on why President Barack Obama's health law is beneficial.