Letters to the Editor

AG Suthers couldn’t be more wrong in his decision to file lawsuit

The Honorable John W. Suthers
Attorney General
Colorado Department of Law
1525 Sherman St.
Denver, CO 80203

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Honorable Attorney General John Suthers:

We are writing today in response to your decision to add your name-and the state of Colorado-to the Florida lawsuit to “protect the individual freedom, public health and welfare” of Coloradans.

We could not disagree more with your decision. Democrats in Congress and President Obama demonstrated courageous leadership by passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We stand united in support of this long overdue policy change.

While we respect your autonomy to file a lawsuit independent of the Legislature, we believe this particular action is misguided and is politically motivated.

Colorado is better positioned than most states to make the most of national reforms because of initiatives already implemented by Governor Ritter and the Legislature. The groundwork for our state-based reforms began with the bi-partisan Blue Ribbon Commission for Healthcare Reform in 2007, which studied how to increase coverage and reduce cost. Senate Bill 208 was supported by 16 Republican legislators, including then-Represenative Josh Penry, a co-sponsor.

After 15 months of thoughtful deliberation, including 25 public meetings, this bi-partisan panel concluded in their Executive Summary: “We must look for ways to stabilize rising costs. For example, if we extend health coverage to more people, we can minimize the cost shift from uncompensated care that represents a ‘hidden tax’ and contributes to escalating health insurance premiums. If we bring more healthy people into the insurance pool, we can lower the risk and thereby stabilize costs for everyone.”

The lawsuit takes issue with the constitutionality of the requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance, and is in direct opposition with one of the main recommendations of the commission and one of the central tenets of the federal legislation.

You state that the “mandate is an unprecedented expansion of the power of the federal government that could undermine the rights of the states and their citizens for generations to come.” Dozens of constitutional lawyers disagree.

Many would argue that Congress has the power to legislate a coverage requirement because the Federal Government has a significant role in regulating health insurance. Many constitutional scholars agree that Congress does have this power under the Commerce Clause.

Melissa Hart, an associate professor at the University of Colorado and director of the Byron White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law said, “I think it’s a very radical interpretation of the 10th Amendment. I think it will fail and I think it’s very political.”

The editorial boards of The Denver Post and the Grand Junction Sentinel also agree the lawsuit is without merit. Even the Colorado Springs Gazette says your motivations are “absolutely” politically motivated.

It is ironic that you, a Republican, now oppose the individual mandate given this provision was originally a Republican idea. Republicans introduced the individual mandate in President George H.W. Bush’s Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act of 1993. The leading GOP alternative plan during President Clinton’s health reform effort, the 1994 Consumer Choice Health Security Act, also included an individual mandate.

As the Attorney General for the State of Colorado, you are tasked with representing the best interest of Colorado, not special interests that are trying to undermine much needed health care reform.

On behalf of constituents across Colorado, we disapprove of the use of any taxpayer money to make this political statement. Particularly during these times of budget cuts, your limited budget should be focused on carrying out the mission of your agency, not making political statements. Any taxpayer money or staff time dedicated to this lawsuit, even $5,000 as you proclaim, is taxpayer money; hard-earned taxpayer money that won’t be spent protecting consumers, one of the missions of your office.

We support the President and Congress, and believe that protecting Coloradans’ “freedom, public health and welfare” is best done by upholding this legislation. It is for these reasons we ask for you to remove Colorado as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Sincerely,

• Speaker of the House Terrance D. Carroll;

• Majority Leader Paul Weissmann;

• State Representatives: Dennis Apuan, Debbie Benefield, Edward Casso, Lois Court, Mark Ferrandino, Randy Fischer, Jerry Frangas, Sara Gagliardi, Dicky Lee Hullinghorst, Joel Judd, Daniel Kagan, John Kefalas, Andy Kerr, Jeanne Labuda, Claire Levy, Michael Merrifield, Karen Middleton, Joe Miklosi, Sal Pace, Cherylin Peniston, Jack Pommer, Dianne Primavera, Jim Riesberg, Su Ryden, Christine Scanlan, Sue Schafer, Judy Solano, John Soper, Nancy Todd, Max Tyler, Edward Vigil