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State Challenges National Health Care

April 20, 2010, Juneau, Alaska – Alaska Governor Sean Parnell today announced that the State of Alaska will join 20 other states in challenging the constitutionality of recently enacted federal heath care reform legislation. Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan released a detailed legal memorandum in which he analyzes the potential legal claims and recommends the constitutional challenge.

“With the enactment of health care legislation, the federal government has reached well beyond the scope of its authority — into the lives and freedom of Alaskans,” Governor Parnell said. “This case is ultimately about the extent to which the federal government can exert power over the states. It has critical implications for the liberty interests of all American citizens. Alaska must join this important litigation.”

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains an individual mandate that requires U.S. citizens to purchase federal government-approved “qualifying” health insurance coverage beginning in 2014. Those who refuse to purchase a government-approved health insurance plan will have to pay a tax penalty of $695 per year or 2.5 percent of their annual income, whichever is higher.

“The individual mandate is an unprecedented federal action,” said Attorney General Sullivan. “Never before has the federal government required people to buy a good or service as a condition of being a lawful resident in the United States. The authority to require American citizens to comply with this mandate should be challenged as beyond the scope of Congress’ Commerce Clause powers as enumerated in Article I of the Constitution. By joining this suit, we are defending the bedrock constitutional principles of federalism, limited government, and individual liberty.”

The governor emphasized that the decision to sue is more about Alaskans’ liberty interests than about health care legislation. “Health insurance coverage is not in the public interest if it’s achieved through a constitutional short-cut that expands federal power at the expense of states’ rights and the liberties of citizens,” he said.

The Department of Law’s 48-page legal memorandum analyzing the federal health care legislation found that most of the legal theories challenging the federal act do not raise serious constitutional issues. The department concluded that the individual mandate was the most troubling and constitutionally suspect provision of the federal act.

The Department of Law’s constitutional analysis of the federal health care bill is available at the following links:

Summary: http://www.law.alaska.gov/pdf/press/042010-ExecSummary.pdf

Opinion: http://www.law.alaska.gov/pdf/opinions/opinions_2010/10-002_ReconciliationAct.pdf

For more information, contact Bill McAllister at the Department of Law 269-4179.

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