Lost in the media free-for-all after last month’s Supreme Court decision on President Barack Obama’s health care law was an important line from Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion that should stand out to all Montanans concerned about the future of our state: “It is a gun to the head.”
That’s how Chief Justice Roberts described the health care law’s unconstitutional, forced expansion of Medicaid onto state governments across our country. This is the same provision that in February of 2011 our own Gov. Brian Schweitzer said “will bankrupt the states.” In 2010, the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured estimated that the law would require more $2.2 billion in increased Medicaid spending in Montana alone from 2014 to 2019. To fund that mandated expansion, our state Legislature would have been coerced by Washington politicians into spending a new $100 million out of the state budget or risk losing $700 million a year in Medicaid funding. The Supreme Court thankfully struck down the Medicaid expansion provision because it was unconstitutional.
Now I don’t know about other people, but where I grew up in Hardin, if someone threatens our state with a $2.2 billion “gun to the head,” we expect our elected officials to stand up and defend us. Unfortunately, when our current attorney general was asked to join our neighbors in 26 other states to do just that against this federal overreach into our state checkbook, he chose to sit on the sidelines and ignore the threat. Now that he’s leaving his post to run for governor, the Democratic Party candidate looking to succeed him has publicly stated she also would not have joined our neighbors in resisting this “gun to the head,” irresponsibly calling the effort against this unconstitutional intrusion, “contrary to the attorney general’s role.”
Montana citizens deserve better. Thankfully, attorneys general in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Washington, Colorado, Nebraska and sixteen other states joined together with elected officials, business leaders and activists from across the country (Republicans and Democrats alike) in this nonpartisan effort that resulted in the demise of President Obama’s unconstitutional Medicaid expansion.
Sitting on the sidelines hoping that our neighbors protect us from federal overreach is unacceptable. Not only do I share Gov. Schweitzer’s concern that Obama’s health care law would have bankrupted Montana had it not been struck down, but the Supreme Court’s decision that the Medicaid rule is unconstitutional is exactly why Montanans expect their attorney general to protect them when the federal government overreaches.