Cuccinelli defends Virginia's suit against health reform at event in Annandale
At a “meet and greet” at the Northern Virginia Jewish Community Center in Annandale Wednesday evening, Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli defended his lawsuit against the federal health care act and his subpoena challenging the research of a former University of Virginia professor on climate change.
The audience at the JCC was decidedly mixed, in terms of their opinion of the controversial Republican attorney general whose outspoken statements have made him a polarizing figure in Gov. Robert McDonnell’s administration. The moderator, Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, urged those in attendance to be civil and respectful.
According to Cuccinelli, his suit against the health reform act is based on the state statute that “insulates Virginians from having to purchase health insurance.” He says there will be a summary judgment hearing Oct. 18 on the suit and a hearing in mid or late November on whether any part of the bill is unconstitutional.
If the mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance is thrown out, everything else in the health reform act would be nullified, too, because the act lacks a “severability clause,” he says. That means provisions that prohibit insurers from canceling people’s policies when they get sick and that allow children to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26 would be tossed out, too.
In response to the argument that the mandate in the health act is similar to requiring car owners to have auto insurance, Cuccinelli says, “States have more extensive powers to order their citizens around” than the federal government. “The federal government does not have the power to require an individual to buy a product.”
“Where does that leave people in Virginia who need health care?” a member of the audience asked. Cuccinelli’s answer: States should be allowed to consolidate health plans, so people could shop around and purchase plans from other states. When someone else contended that universal health insurance is long overdue, noting that the United States is the only Western country without a national health plan, Cuccinelli countered that “we are freer than those other countries. That has to be the trade-off.”
In response to a question about why the state is pursuing legal action against Prof. Michael Mann after other universities affirmed his research methodology on global warming, Cuccinelli said “no other entity in Virginia other than the attorney general addresses the misappropriation of federal dollars.” Cuccinelli, no fan of environmental regulations, has complained that Mann had falsified data to show how global warming is caused by human activity, such as industrial air pollution.
After Cuccinnelli’s earlier attempts to subpoena Mann’s research documents were blocked by a judge, the attorney general now is attempting to gain access to just the documents dealing with research funded by state grant money. Cuccinneli says he wants to review the documents to see if they are fraudulent and whether “false statements were made to get the grant.”
The attorney general told the audience his other priorities are a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas standards, Medicaid fraud, and mental health services for prisoners.