UPDATE: Missouri's Democratic attorney general fights health care mandate

Monday, April 11, 2011 | 7:06 p.m. CDT; updated 9:42 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 11, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — Despite his party's support for President Barack Obama's health care plan, Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster filed a "friend of the court" brief Monday that aims to remove the mandate requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance.

Koster wrote in the brief that upholding the individual mandate would "imbue Congress with police powers rejected by the Founding Fathers and never before permitted by the Supreme Court."

The brief was filed in response to resolutions passed in the statehouse in January that called on the attorney general to challenge the constitutionality of the health care law and to defend Proposition C.

Unlike filing suit, the amicus brief filed by the attorney general merely serves as a secondary opinion; it does not hold the weight of being a plaintiff or defendant. Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka, defined an amicus brief as not very significant.

"They don't carry that much water to be honest with you," he said. "It's like somebody saying, 'Yeah, me too.'"

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder released a dissatisfied statement in response to Koster's action. In it, he said Koster does not effectively advocate for the interests of Missouri citizens.

"Koster's amicus brief in the Florida case, while welcome, is a day late and a dollar short," Kinder said.

Kinder went on to say that the mandate is not severable from the act, and thus Koster's wish of keeping the act intact without the central provision is not a feasible option. His statement called on Koster to take on more direct action. It is, however, too late for Missouri to join the lawsuit because it is already in the appeals process.

"It is crucial that leaders of our state are willing to get in the battle for Missourians' constitutional rights and freedoms, and not just comment from the sideline," Kinder said.

House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, disapproved of the fact that Koster pinpointed only one issue in the act.

"His involvement in the process is political in nature, and he has taken a political calculation," Tilley said. "And I would say his political calculation is incorrect if he's identifying just one provision of the bill that's unconstitutional."

Koster's office offered no additional comments and said the document speaks for itself.

Obama's plan, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, mandates that an individual should maintain a minimum amount of coverage or pay a fine. Missouri voters responded to the act in August 2010, when they voted to pass Proposition C, a referendum prohibiting mandatory participation in the health care system.

Koster's brief was filed as an addition to a case filed in Pensacola, Fla., by Republican attorneys general and governors from 26 states. Koster is technically the only Democrat who is directly involved in the case. The Attorney General of Wyoming is a Democrat, but the lawsuit was an action taken by the Republican governor. The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta is hearing the litigation. So far, three lower court judges have upheld the act, while two, including U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson, have taken issue with the central provision of the health care act and ruled it unconstitutional.

The mandate for health insurance is the act's central provision. Koster said he would support the act if legislators cut out that mandate.

House Democratic Floor Leader Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, said he does not agree with Koster's reasoning in the brief but acknowledged that Koster did what he felt was necessary.

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Dale Jones April 11, 2011 | 9:01 p.m.

I guess government can't say we must have drivers license to drive.or I must pay my income taxes....these guys are getting crazy and crazier......all major countries have free health insurance but the USA.........that's the fact...this Attorney General must be replaced with someone who cares about the common folks.

(Report Comment)
Kathy Snowberry April 15, 2011 | 7:48 p.m.

Koster dragged his feet as long as he could, and then filed the amicus brief - the content of which has been criticized and ridiculed by some legal experts. I think Koster was just tying to get some Republicans off his back.

Before Obama's health care act passed, I went to the MO hippa site and checked on health ins, just to see what the otions were. It would have cost me $1200 to $1800 a month - with a $50,000 lifetime cap and $5000 a year 'out of pocket'. Do the math - these are worthless. After the act passed, I could get great insurance from a number of providers for around $250 a month.

Once again, these Republicans are looking out for whom?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 15, 2011 | 8:18 p.m.

Kathy, maybe you should have looked a little harder. I bought health insurance for myself on the private market last year for $155/month, before Obama's "reforms" were passed.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams April 15, 2011 | 9:18 p.m.

Yeah, the Missouri and Federal insurance pools for those who cannot get insurance are sooooooo much better.

Check out:

Then click on "State Pool", "Federal Pool", and ESPECIALLY, "premiums."

THEN tell me how much gov't is doing for insurance-for-all.

PS: No wonder participation is so miserable. Next time a fed or state politician tells you how good of a job they are doing with health insurance, laugh in their face, give them the above noted "link", and ask them to get in the same program.

(Report Comment)
Kathy Snowberry April 15, 2011 | 11:36 p.m.

@ Michael - yup, the MHIP offerings are still horrible. For state plan I would be paying $1800 and for the fed it was over $700 a month. These plans (as I understand it) are for people who have pre-conditions or have been turned down by private plans.

@ John, hard to compare private market without getting into life time max, co-pays, out of pocket and so on. But happy for you to find a deal that works for you.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Smith April 16, 2011 | 2:37 a.m.

Let me tell you a little story about a man named...Jimmy.

I have great insurance, and drive a Cadillac. A very costly one. I have a great house. I make a lot of money, and pay more taxes than General Electric.

But I have never seen the robbery involved with the medical community, until I was sent to a cardiologist.

I had some lower gut pain, so my doctor 'prescribed' this:

The initial 'consultation' for the cardiologist, was charged $450 dollars to my insurance company. The doctor took my blood pressure and listened to my heart. After a two hour wait, I saw the doctor for 15 minutes. And got charged $450 dollars.

Then the echo ultra-sound-o-gram for my heart, which took 15 minutes, cost $650 dollars. The tech told me: There is nothing wrong with your heart.

Two days later, then the stress test cost $1,700. It basically measured my heart while walking on a treadmill for 7 minutes. Which I had to wait 3 hours to do.

Even after I told these people that there was nothing wrong with my heart, and they could see that, I had to go back to their office on another day, wait another 2 hours, not even see the real cardiologist. But then a lackey came in, took my blood pressure, then told me that everything was fine, in 10 minutes. Didn't even get to see the cardiologist. Cost to the insurance company: another $250 dollars.

They could have easily called me on the phone and told me this.

Total cost for my heart being fine, not the problem, which I told the doctor from the start, almost $3,000 bucks.

This is what is wrong with our medical system.

I can not understand how anybody could afford to pay for this on their own, especially our elders, if they really got sick, and didn't have insurance.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 16, 2011 | 5:51 a.m.

We are presently "paying for our own health insurance" whether we pay for it directly or whether the costs are fully or partially covered by some government program - unless we pay no federal taxes at all.

Actually, what is happening is that federal taxes AREN'T covering all the costs: they are being passed, through mounting federal deficits, to our children, our children's children, their children, etc. We may go down in history as the first - and hopefully only - generation of Americans who destroyed the lives of succeeding generations.

All in the name of "fairness," "compassion," [to the current generation] and other useless slogans.

Those who supposedly "represent" us in Congress (House, Senate) and the person who occupies the White House, and their families, receive the best medical treatment available in the United States - FREE, to them.

Our government is both broke AND broken; it's time we stopped the pretense that it isn't.

[Note that no political party has been named. That's because the problem is "bipartisan."]

(Report Comment)

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