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McDonnell eyes ‘finality’ in expedited suit

Health care litigation breeds uncertainty, he says

- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 19, 2010

Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia defended his efforts Sunday to have the state's trial-court victory in its federal health reform lawsuit bypass an appeals court and go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Asked by "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace about whether he just wants to "kill 'Obamacare' before it gets rolling," Mr. McDonnell said he's really looking for a definitive answer for everybody.

"Let's create finality for businesses, for citizens and for everybody about is [the law] constitutional or not, so everybody knows how to govern themselves," Mr. McDonnell said. "That's the big issue for me."

Mr. McDonnell has advocated "fast-tracking" the case to the high court since Dec. 13, when a U.S. district court judge in Virginia ruled as unconstitutional a key provision in the law that forces most Americans to buy insurance or pay a penalty. The case was filed by state Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a Republican, and heard by a Republican-appointed judge.

The Justice Department wants to send last week's ruling by Bush-appointed Judge Henry E. Hudson to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

"Virginia's suit is based on a state statute that is not applicable nationwide," Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said. "And the department believes this case should follow the ordinary course of allowing the courts of appeals to hear it first so the issues and arguments can be fully developed before the Supreme Court decides whether to consider it."

The White House said the ruling will not affect President Obama's 2009 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, whose major provisions are not set to start until 2014. Two other district court judges, both Democratic appointees, have found the law constitutional. In a fourth case, 20 states are suing in a Florida court to overturn the law.

Meanwhile, most states have already started working with the Obama administration on setting up mandatory, state-based health-insurance marketplaces, also known as exchanges. Mr. McDonnell said another reason to send the case to the high court would be such efforts would be a waste of money should the law eventually be overturned.

In Congress, House Speaker-designate John A. Boehner has vowed an attempt to stop the implementation of the law soon after his party takes control of the chamber in January.

Mr. McDonnell also said Sunday that he wants Americans to have better access to affordable health care and to reduce medical costs, but the current legislation in unconstitutional under the Constitution's commerce and general welfare clauses.

"Ultimately, you have to follow the law," said Mr. McDonnell, adding he has asked for support on the issue from governors across the country.

Mr. McDonnell said his supporters are working on alternative, free-market plans to improve the number of people in individual medical savings account. He also said Congress should pass a bill to allow more portability of health insurance across state lines and that there should be more flexibility in the Medicaid program, instead of the unfunded mandates in the existing law that will reach $2 billion by 2022.

"Let's just [make changes] in a way that's bipartisan and it's constitutional, and not force these billions in unfunded mandates on the states," Mr. McDonnell said.

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