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Utah may sue over national health care reform



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's attorney general is preparing to joins a lawsuit that challenges the Senate's massive health care reform bill. Utah is one of 10 conservative states prepared to challenge the health care bill.

The reasoning behind the suit goes way beyond the cost of the legislation. The attorneys general, including Utah's Mark Shurtleff, say there are constitutional questions. Even more, they say the so-called Nebraska compromise part of the deal smells of corruption.

![](http://media.bonnint.net/slc/1674/167422/16742244.jpg)**What is… the "Nebraska Compromise?"**
The "Nebraska Compromise" is the political deal that secured Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson's vote on the massive health care package passed Christmas Eve. The compromise exempts Nebraska from paying billions in Medicaid expansion costs, forcing other states to shoulder a bigger burden for the low-income insurance program. Under the provision, 100 percent of Nebraska's cost of all newly eligible Medicaid enrollees, a cost the 49 other states are required to pay, will be covered indefinitely by the federal government.
"There weren't enough votes to get the bill to the floor of the Senate, so the president cut a deal with Ben Nelson, the senator from Nebraska," says Utah Chief Deputy Attorney General John Swallow. The deal with Nelson was made in exchange for a "yes" vote on the bill. The estimated cost: $100 million.

It's just one aspect of the Senate's health care reform bill that has motivated 10 states to start researching legal action.

The states are researching a constitutional challenge of whether requiring every American to buy something -- in this case health insurance -- is legal. They also have constitutional questions about mandating state legislatures to enact portions of the bill.

"That's unprecedented. State legislatures can't be mandated by the federal government to do anything," Swallow says.

For health care advocates, those specific questions are not an issue. The federal government already requires auto insurance, says Judi Hilman, with the Utah Health Policy Project.

**Potential lawsuit participants**
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has joined a group of conservative Attorneys General in researching a lawsuit over federal health care reform. Other Attorneys General include: - [South Carolina (Henry McMaster)](http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=9172210&pid=1) - [Alabama (Troy King)](http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=9172210&pid=2) - [Colorado (John Suthers)](http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=9172210&pid=3) - Michigan (Mike Cox) - North Dakota (Wayne Stenehjem) - [Pennsylvania (Tom Corbett)](http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=9172210&pid=4) - [Texas (Greg Abbott)](http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=9172210&pid=5) - Virginia (Bill Mims) - [Washington (Rob McKenna)](http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=9172210&pid=6)
"The federal government already has all kinds of regulation going on around Medicare and Medicaid, and we don't blink an eye," Hilman says. "So why should this be any different?" But there's also a bill pending in the Utah Legislature would require Utah to opt out of any federally mandated health care reform. That will likely get attention this year, in addition to the possible multi-state lawsuit.

"We have to be careful in trying to solve a problem that's immediate today, not give up our rights as people and our rights as a state," Swallow says.

In spite of differences about the federal mandates, there is widespread agreement in Utah about the Nebraska compromise: Most people KSL News spoke with feel it's a bad deal and sets a bad precedent.

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Story compiled with contributions from Richard Piatt and Paul Nelson.

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