Republican Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has again taken the lead in filing a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act.
Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler reports.
The case began in Warren County in southwest Ohio, when officials there wrote to the Obama administration of their concerns about a tax bill that they were expecting to receive because of the Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare. When they didn’t get a response, they reached out to Attorney General Mike DeWine, who sent his own letter last week. He warned Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell that he felt the plan to tax state and local governments on their public employee health plans was unconstitutional. And now DeWine has followed up on that threat, filing a suit in federal court over a $5.3 million dollar tax bill. DeWine says there are two problems with the Obamacare law in this case.
“We don’t find the authority in there for the federal government, for the Obama administration to tax the states. We don’t think it’s provided for in the law that Congress itself wrote. And second, even if it was in there, we don’t think they have the constitutional authority to do that.”
DeWine says Warren County officials are part of the suit, as well as four public universities - the University of Akron, Bowling Green State University, Shawnee State University, and Youngstown State University. But he says other government entities could be affected.
“It would be any political subdivision – a township, a city, a village, a county that is self-insured. If they’re self-insured and they have someone else administer is, they have to pay, according to the federal government, they have to pay this tax.”
DeWine says he expects other attorneys general to file their own lawsuits with similar claims. The AG says this is about whether the federal government can tax other governments, and not about his personal opinion of Obamacare. But DeWine has been a vocal critic of Obamacare for years, and this is not DeWine’s first attack against it. His first act as attorney general was to join a 25 state lawsuit against the law, and then he led the 19 attorneys general who challenged the law in the case brought by the craft store chain Hobby Lobby, which opposed the ACA’s requirement that the company offer insurance that includes contraceptives for women.
“Attorney General DeWine has literally wasted years of time, energy and money suing about every political debate in Washington he can think of.”
David Pepper is the chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, and ran against DeWine last fall. He says DeWine should be focused on fighting for the safety of Ohioans instead of battling an established federal law.
“We have a full-bore heroin crisis, and we’re seeing press conferences and suits about everything but dealing with some of those most fundamental issues. Honestly, Obamacare has been debated again and again. These suits have for those most part gone nowhere – they’ve been unsuccessful. I just think that there’s just far too much politics in the current operation of that office.”
And Pepper says he finds it interesting that DeWine’s fellow Republican Gov. John Kasich will be working on continuing his expansion of Medicaid, which has been touted as a major component of the ACA - though Kasich has said Medicaid expansion has nothing to do with Obamacare. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell did not comment on the lawsuit . But HHS did issue a statement last week that noted the average consumer paid $82 per month for coverage after tax credits and that 80 percent of those enrolled in the insurance marketplace could get coverage for less than $100 after tax credits. HHS spokesman Ben Wakana adds that – quote – “new choices and more competition are giving consumers affordable options”, and that the agency was planning to respond to DeWine’s letter in as timely a manner as possible.