Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Van Hollen to sue over health care law

Wisconsin State Attorney General JB Van Hollen is going to sue.

The top lawyer for the state, Van Hollen has made it clear that he intends to file suit against the federal health care law that was enacted earlier this year. Van Hollen had previously tried to press for a lawsuit following the law's passage, but without either house of the state legislature expressing a desire to do so, and without Gov. Jim Doyle's consent, he was unable to formally support the actions of other states filing suit or filing one himself.

With a new Republican legislature taking control in January, as well as Republican Gov.-elect Scott Walker endorsing the idea, it seems Van Hollen will get his lawsuit after all.

But do Wisconsinites want Van Hollen to move forward with his suit? Probably not. Though recent polls on the subject are hard to come by (especially at the state level), polls conducted in the winter of 2009 reflect strong support for some government action on the issue of health care.

Fifty-six percent of Wisconsinites favored the "creation of a health insurance plan that would be available to most Americans and administered by the federal government," similar to the public option, that would compete with private plans. A whopping 86 percent felt that "the federal government bares at least some responsibility" for ensuring the people of Wisconsin had adequate and affordable health insurance. And 72 percent felt that the state of health care across the nation was in a "crisis."

Assuming these attitudes haven't changed much over the past year, it seems appropriate to conclude that most Wisconsinites support the overall goal of the health reform bill that passed. It may be true that the people of Wisconsin disapprove of a mandate for coverage by 2014, but that doesn't mean that they want a complete repeal of the law either.

Despite these attitudes, it's highly likely that JB Van Hollen, along with other state attorneys general, would like to throw the baby out with the bathwater -- that is, they'd like to eliminate the entire law altogether, rather than simply remove the part on mandates.

While not perfect, the bill that was passed into law still does many great things. It forbids insurance companies from denying its clients coverage based on pre-existing conditions (starting in 2014 -- for children, the law ends this immediately). It allows consumers more choices for health insurance, creating greater competition in communities where only one or two insurance providers may exist. It requires insurance companies to spend eighty cents out of every dollar on actual health care costs (with reimbursements being sent to customers when companies collect above that amount). And it grants millions of Americans tax credits to help alleviate the costs of health care.

If this lawsuit were simply about removing the requirement to have insurance, it would have my support (at least in terms of being a legitimate suit to carry out). But the lawsuits that are being filed across the country are hoping to do more than that, hoping instead for a complete eradication of the law for political gain. Americans, despite what conservatives will argue, wanted health reform, with most approving of what was passed or wanting even more.

The lawsuit that JB Van Hollen is hoping to put forth will do more political destruction, will cause more harm to Wisconsin families, and will be a waste of taxpayer dollars. Van Hollen should reconsider his position on filing a lawsuit against the federal health care law, and think for just a moment what harm could come about thorugh such litigation.

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