Missouri's Kinder sues to block federal health care law

JEFFERSON CITY | Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder filed a lawsuit today over the federal health care overhaul, accusing Congress of overstepping its authority, trampling on state sovereignty and attempting to interfere with consumers' health decisions.

Numerous states have challenged the federal health care overhaul since it was signed into law last March. Missouri's lawsuit — filed by Kinder in his personal and official capacities and by three other residents — asserts that the federal government cannot compel people to buy a product and cannot require state officials to participate in enforcing a "federal scheme."

Kinder, a Republican, said in a written statement that the federal health care legislation is unconstitutional and would make health care more expensive.

"Many Missourians will lose the options for health insurance they currently enjoy," Kinder said. "Missourians have less health care coverage after the federal law was passed than they did before it was passed."

The federal health care law expands health insurance to 30 million people. It allows parents to keep their children on their insurance plans until age 26. It expands Medicaid coverage. And starting in 2014, most Americans will be required to have health insurance or face tax penalties.

The Justice Department has argued in other lawsuits that the federal health care law fits within Congress' authority to regulate interstate commerce and to provide for the general welfare. It argued that decisions to opt out of health insurance have consequences for everyone.

U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said Wednesday that it will defend the federal health care law from challenges over constitutional or other grounds.

"We are confident that this statute is constitutional and that we will prevail," Schmaler said.

In his lawsuit, Kinder contends the federal health care law could cause Missouri to raise state taxes to pay for the expanded Medicaid program and that it improperly affects the compensation of state officials by making changes to the state health care plan. He also contends the health care law is unconstitutional because he says it interferes with Missourians' personal health care choices.