Maine joins health-care challenge; AG says 'matter of principle'

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 in News

Maine joins health-care challenge; AG says 'matter of principle'

William Schneider, Maine attorney general

Maine Attorney General William Schneider said Monday that public opinion played no role in Maine's decision to join 25 other states who are challenging the Affordable Health Care Act.

"Honestly, for me, it's a matter of principle. It's a matter of fact that I believe, as do the other 25 attorneys general, that this portion of the law is unconstitutional," Schneider said.

Schneider went on to say that he thought the Affordable Health Care Act was unconstitutional, and that it was his duty to do whatever he could do to make sure it didn't take effect.

He said he found the mandate for Americans to buy health insurance starting in 2014 or pay penalties "the most egregiously unconstitutional part of the law."

Schneider was interviewed as the U.S. Supreme Court opened three days of arguments on the Affordable Care Act. Today, he and other attorneys general from states that are challenging the law will be in court to observe arguments before the justices.

He won't be alone from Maine. Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell, is also at the Supreme Court this week to make the case for the majority of Mainers who want to give Affordable Care a chance to work.

Treat, who sat in court for Monday's arguments, represents a group of more than 500 state legislators nationwide who filed two briefs supporting the law's standing as constitutional. She said that nearly 100,000 Mainers benefit from portions of the health law that have already taken effect and that she's concerned about the possibility of a court ruling that could undo their coverage. She said she sees no point in "wasting time and money on a legal challenge that does absolutely nothing to advance the goal of access to affordable health care."

The Affordable Care Act now has legal standing in its entirety, but the Supreme Court could find that the mandate is unconstitutional and connected to the rest of the law, which would, in effect, throw out the entire law, Schneider said.

"If it's found severable, then Congress may want to revisit the Affordable Care Act and figure out what that means," Schneider said. "If it's found not severable, Congress will probably have to go back to the drawing board and address health care in a big way again."

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