Gov. Sean Parnell's decision earlier this month to have Alaska join 19 other states in a lawsuit to challenge the federal health care reform act is disappointing.
Our disappointment isn't about the new law. It's about Alaska joining in a dubious effort based on shallow slogans and bandwagon politics.
Parnell and state Attorney General Dan Sullivan are joining the chorus of states that claim the law presents an unprecedented and unconstitutional exercise of federal power by mandating that uninsured citizens buy insurance.
The issue is not health insurance, Parnell says, it's about holding the reins on federal power.
As reported by The Associated Press earlier this month: Parnell said bringing affordable health insurance to Alaskans is a laudable goal, but "health insurance at the price of freedom? No."
Hyperbole aside, statements like that may play well to the conservative base in an election year. But they do nothing to address the more complicated financial, ethical and moral issues involved.
For example, those of us who currently pay for health insurance subsidize the others who don't. The stories of those folks who say they stay healthy and don't want to buy health insurance don't mean anything when they find themselves in the emergency room for whatever reason. If they can't pay, we end up doing so.
Gov. Parnell doesn't address that issue. If he gets his way, that inequity remains.
And let's be realistic about the so-called "penalty" that would be assessed to those who refuse to buy health insurance. Any monies we pay to any government entity are a tax, no matter what you call the tax. And governments have the authority to levy taxes.
The question about forcing people to buy insurance being unconstitutional is also a false argument. The government has already been telling us to buy insurance as a requisite of operating a motor vehicle. Local governments mandate auto emissions standards, then send us to private businesses to administer the emissions tests.
Many governments also mandate building construction standards that can only be met by certified professionals.
Gov. Parnell isn't addressing those incongruities, either.
For Alaska and these other states to say they're defending their citizens' freedom seems shallow -- both in light of what governments already do to/for us, and without offering an alternative to address the serious health care issues that will remain.
In short: Suing the federal government over the health care bill is a waste of time and money.
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