Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a leading figure in the legal challenge to Obamacare, tells Newsmax he is “disappointed and shocked” that Chief Justice John Roberts voted to uphold the individual mandate provision in the healthcare reform bill.
But he predicts that the debate over healthcare reform “has just begun” and will heat up in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.
McCollum was the lead attorney general in the lawsuit to overturn Obamacare, arguing that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. His lawsuit was backed by 26 other states.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax, McCollum said: “I am disappointed and shocked that Chief Justice Roberts chose to consider the individual mandate to be a tax. The states had argued, and I believe correctly, that you could not consider this a tax because it would be a direct tax, and under the Constitution it can’t be that, and he did a very contrived argument to come up with a conclusion that you could consider it a tax without having a constitutional amendment.
“He did however do one thing that was very positive. He ruled that the Commerce Clause could not be expanded to require individuals to purchase a product or service when there is no activity, when you’re not engaged in commerce — the thrust of our principal argument. He found a way to uphold the constitutionality of this law without dissecting it with this contrived method of calling it a tax.”
The high court’s ruling put some limits on the law's plan to expand the Medicaid insurance program for the poor, a joint effort of the federal government and states. It says the U.S. government cannot threaten to withhold a state's entire Medicaid allotment if it doesn't participate in the expansion.
“There is a small victory in this for the states in the Medicaid portion,” McCollum states.
“We brought this. It was the only suit that questioned Medicaid. We thought it was coercive. [Roberts] said it was too but his conclusion in this is that he can just excise the provision, which he did, declaring it unconstitutional that if the states do not accept the Medicaid provision that they will be penalized by not being able to receive any of their existing Medicaid benefits.
“Now they’re going to have that choice, so we’ll have to see how that works out. I suspect many states will not be able to afford, or feel they can, the constraints in the new Medicaid provisions. They will reject them, they won’t accept them, and that may be very destructive to the main thrust of this legislation.
“It’s a very narrow ruling but it did rule in favor of the states on that point.”
Looking ahead, McCollum tells Newsmax the court ruling is “going to make [healthcare] a very big debate in this fall’s election and who becomes president and who the U.S. senators and Congress are going to be.
“My opinion before this ruling, as it is now, is that the debate over healthcare reform has just begun with this decision. That would have been the case however the court ruled.
“Instead of having concluded it with this decision, I think we’re going to see it really get going. The public has never really focused on the details of this. This is an enormous law. It has wide implications and problems far beyond those we were able to raise in the constitutional challenge, and as time passes I think it will be apparent [what are] the flaws and the huge problems that it creates for individuals and for states beyond anything in this ruling today.
“So we’ve got a lot more to go on the healthcare issue over the next election period and beyond.”
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