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A War Within Washington on Health Care Reform

March 23rd, 2010 by Steven Gardner

The argument between Gov. Chris Gregoire and Attorney General Rob McKenna is something we probably could have predicted in January.

McKenna was in Kitsap County and stopped by our offices. We asked him about health care reform and he very pointedly brought up the very issue that on Monday became part of the national conversation. He’s joining other states in suing the federal government, arguing that it’s unconstitutional for the federal government to mandate that someone buy something.

Since his announcement the governor, a former attorney general, State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidleer and U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, have all come out critical of McKenna’s decision.

The Seattlepi.com was among the first to argue that this fight will prevent McKenna from being governor in 2012, saying he was difficult to criticize up to this point.

“Democrats will now try to tar him with the same brush they’ve used to dispatch every GOP gubernatorial candidate for the past 25 years. And it looks like McKenna has just given them at least some of the paint they’ll need.”

The official statements follow the jump. There will probably be many more.

From McKenna:

“I believe this new federal health care measure unconstitutionally imposes new requirements on our state and on its citizens. This unprecedented federal mandate, requiring all Washingtonians to purchase health insurance, violates the Commerce Clause and the 10th amendment of the US Constitution.

“I’m concerned that the measure unconstitutionally requires all Washingtonians to purchase health insurance and places an extraordinary burden on our state budget by requiring Washington to expand its Medicaid eligibility standards in violation of our state’s rights guaranteed under the10th amendment.”

From the governor:

“I’m disappointed that the Attorney General would participate in a lawsuit to repeal a law that would help 1.5 million Washingtonians get access to affordable, quality health care.

“I completely disagree with the Attorney General’s decision and he does not represent me.

“He doesn’t represent the people of Washington who would get assistance so they could afford quality health insurance. He doesn’t represent the thousands of small businesses that would benefit from tax credits to provide coverage for their employees. He doesn’t represent the thousands who will no longer be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. He doesn’t represent the half million young people in our state who would be covered under their parents plan until they are 26. He doesn’t represent our state’s Medicare recipients. He doesn’t represent the taxpayers of Washington.

“This is landmark legislation that will cover over 32 million Americans who don’t have health care. I have made it clear to the Attorney General that I will actively oppose this lawsuit if it moves forward.”

From Kreidler:

“I was deeply disappointed to hear that Attorney General McKenna plans to fight the federal health-reform legislation.

Washington is home to nearly 1 million people with no health coverage. The status quo is simply unsustainable, both financially and morally. Far too many families – through no fault of their own –are one diagnosis away from bankruptcy.

The battle over health care has been far too bitter and partisan. Personal mandates have been talked about over the years by both Democrats and Republicans, including the late Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I., who proposed an individual mandate in 1993.

It’s my hope that we come together as a state to enact reform, rather than let families continue to suffer while lawyers battle in the courts.”

From Inslee:

“We fought over 2,000 insurance industry lobbyists in Washington DC to protect Washingtonians health care, we shouldn’t have to fight our own Attorney General too. Stripping families of their legal rights to insurance, may be the South Carolina way, may be the insurance company way, may be the Tea Party way, but it’s not the Washington way.

“If the Rob Mckenna had his way, he would remove the cornerstone of this house of health, bringing down all the rights and protections we have fought so hard to build. Rob Mckenna would leave Washingtonians naked and allow insurance companies to deny them care for a preexisting condition or strip them of coverage after they get sick. That is not the Washington way. We should be disappointed that our attorney general has chosen to be in league with insurance companies and not Washingtonians.

“Rob Mckenna does not know, or does not care that a significant part of this comprehensive reform includes the solution to decades of Medicare reimbursement disparity for Washington health care providers and hospitals, and more importantly a new structure for health care spending that will reward quality care, reduce the deficit and save families money.”

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2 Responses to “A War Within Washington on Health Care Reform”

  1. Heybooboo Says:

    Maybe the governor will change her mind when Medicaid goes so broke from all the additional people shifted to Medicaid under the health insurance “reform.”

  2. Jefferson County resident Says:

    The bill plus the reconciliation include good things for us in Washington, including hospitals and doctors (as Inslee has pointed out).

    I am one of the uninsured. And I do have a pre-existing condition. I earn too much to qualify for any of the current subsidies, and too little to afford the near $2000 per month insurance premiums from any insurance provider who will even consider insuring me.

    Rescission of insurance has always been an acute risk for me–yet another reason why borrowing the money to buy insurance seems additionally risky: wouldn’t I be better off simply saving that money (if I had it) than throwing it away on an insurance plan sold by a company that has no intention of keeping their promise to provide a service?

    If there is anything that McKenna should be doing in the health care arena of consumer litigation, it would be to protect us Washingtonians from those unscrupulous insurance scams.

    On another note, I have recently been discharged from bankruptcy. Why did I declare bankruptcy to being with?

    Unpaid medical bills.

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