Abbott: State must work swiftly to comply with health care act

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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says the state will have to work swiftly to determine what is needed to comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law Thursday.

During a media call Thursday morning, Abbott called the decision “mixed,” as it essentially upheld the mandate that individuals carry health insurance through Congress’ taxing authority. Abbott represented Texas, which, along with 25 other states, sued the federal government on two aspects of the law – whether individuals could be required to buy insurance and whether, if the mandate was struck down, the entire law must be struck down. He was in the chambers when the justices read the decision.

In its ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court did not have the votes to uphold the individual mandate through the commerce clause of the Constitution — essentially striking down the concept that Congress could require individuals to purchase health insurance through its power to regulate interstate commerce.

Abbott called that a victory for state’s rights, limited government and individual liberties.

However, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with four of the justices to uphold the mandate through Congressional taxing authority.

Abbott called that application of the taxing authority “novel.”

“This decision caught both sides by surprise today,” Abbott said.

The challenge now is to move quickly on “what is necessary for the state to comply with the new tax,” Abbott said.

It was unclear, for example, whether the state would have to develop the health insurance exchanges, a place where Texans can obtain low-cost health insurance if it not available through their employers.

“How that will all work we don’t know yet,” Abbott said.

Many other states have either established exchanges or are moving towards it. Texas has not. When passed in 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provided for the federal government to set up a health insurance exchange if a state does not.

Lawyers in Abbott’s office are continuing to review other legal options, he said.

“We’re exploring all options, other avenues we may have to legally dismantle Obamacare,” Abbott said.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her email address is pheinkel-wolfe@dentonrc.com.


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