The Politics of Healthcare

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The healthcare debate is over in Congress, but it is perhaps the biggest political football on the field going into this fall's election. Republicans are pledging to repeal it in Congress and GOP attorneys general in more than a dozen states are in federal court, trying to get it declared an unconstitutional overreach of federal power. Ann Woolner of Bloomberg News lays it all out here. See her entire column at www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-04/obamacare-lawsuits-not-for-the-sick-or-nonpartisan-ann-woolner.html

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, speaking of a case aimed at stopping national health-care reform, declared, “This lawsuit is not about health care. It’s about our freedom.”

He isn’t the first to say so. Last month, at a debate among attorney general candidates in Florida, Republican contender Jeff Kottkamp said of a similar case there, “This lawsuit’s not about health care,” the St. Petersburg Times reported. “This lawsuit’s about freedom,”

They are both wrong. It’s about politics. It’s so obviously about politics that most folks take that fact for granted.

These cases are another way for Republicans to try to defeat a Democratic initiative and score points while doing it. Whether you think the lawsuits are worthy probably depends more on your political views than on your constitutional interpretation. Granted, those two are sometimes hard to separate.

But notice that 18 of the 20 attorneys general suing in Florida are Republicans....

Virginia’s top lawyer is a standout among health-care opponents because he rushed to the courthouse to file his case first instead of joining the crowd about to file in Florida. Cuccinelli got the spotlight all to himself this week when a judge in Richmond gave Virginia a preliminary victory.

He already had made a name for himself by challenging other favorite whipping boys of conservatives. Global warming? He sued the Environmental Protection Agency over it. Gay rights? He instructed Virginia’s public universities and colleges that they can’t outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. Academic elitism? He subpoenaed the University of Virginia’s research records of a noted climate change scientist formerly on the faculty....

These cases can’t be just about health care, because that’s a policy matter for lawmakers to decide, not judges. There is a certain legitimacy to the White House’s complaint that, having lost legislatively, opponents are asking unelected judges to step in.

But if these cases were about health care, someone might point out that more than 1 million Virginians, or 15 percent under the age of 65, have no medical insurance, a figure that keeps growing.

A witness might testify that starting next month insurers will be barred from denying sick children coverage under a provision that takes effect Sept. 23....

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