Mar 30, 2010

Health Care v. Constitution: Liberty sues government

by Melinda Zosh

Liberty University is the first private institution in the United States to sue the federal government for passage of the health care reform bill. Liberty Counsel is suing on behalf of the university, according to Dean of the Law School Mat Staver.

Liberty is not alone in the health care battle. Thirteen states’ attorneys general have also filed suit on similar claims, including Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Staver and Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. held a press conference at North Campus on Tuesday, March 22, announcing that the organizations are suing on grounds of unconstitutionality.

“We are named Liberty for a reason, and this is an attack on liberty,” Falwell said. “This is a travesty and unconstitutional in so many ways and we felt an obligation to challenge it.”

Del. Kathy Byron (R) spoke about ramifications of the bill for the nation and the state of Virginia, saying that she was “pleased the Attorney General has filed suit.”

“This law is unconstitutional, and if Congress can pass this law, it is giving them ultimate control,” Byron said.

Dr. Bill Tsoi, a private-practice plastic surgeon in Ft. Collins, Co., spoke about how the bill will affect his practice. The health care bill will affect his relationship with his patients, he said, as well as the future of medical profession.

“(Young people) will not go into medicine,” Tsoi said. “They will not be as dedicated and trained.”

The government has no right to legislate nationalized health care, according to Staver.

“You always have to ask the basic question when Congress passes a law. Do they have the authority to do so?” Staver said. “Government has limited authority.”

The health care bill, which passed the House of Representatives with 219 votes, and which President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday, is a violation of states’ rights and an individual’s right to choose, according to Staver.

The only way government can legally pass this type of legislation is if it affects interstate commerce, such as transporting items across state lines. The government cannot mandate a law that has “only a local or state effect,” according to Staver.

“If I do not want to buy health insurance, how is my non-participation affecting an act across state lines?” Staver said.

Few people understand every aspect of the 2,300-page bill, which includes a provision reshaping student loans and extending dependents coverage on parents’ insurance policies until age 26, according to Staver.

“No one will ever know the full ramifications (of this bill) for years,” Staver said. “What we do know is that Congress is forcing every single person to purchase a product that he or she may not want. That has never happened before.”

This bill will also affect Liberty’s employees, approximately 5,000 total, 1,200 of whom are student employees, according to Staver and Falwell.

“We may not be able to employ as many student workers as we have in the past,” Staver said.

Currently, Liberty has a 90-day waiting period for employees to receive insurance. The bill changes that period to 30 days, and Liberty would need to pay a $600 fine for every employee, including spouses and dependents of employees, unless the university follows the government’s system, according to Staver.
“Liberty is self-insured and must pay a penalty to the government even though the insurance is as good or better than any other insurance (in the country),” Staver said. “That is going to drive up costs.”

The bill allows for funding of abortions, according to Staver. Twelve pro-life democratic representatives voted for the bill after Obama issued an executive order assuring that the bill would not fund abortions, but an executive order cannot overrule federal law, Staver said.

“(Obama tricked) these 12 people into thinking that (his order) will be sufficient when in fact all he has to do is wake up one day and revoke the executive order,” Staver said.

The new program requires that if people do not have health insurance that matches with the government’s program, then they will pay penalties, and eventually their program will fade out, according to Staver.

All policies except for one in the exchange program cover abortion, and this policy is probably the least desirable, Staver said.

“Most people will be forced into policies that do fund abortions,” Staver said. “The penalties end up funding abortion.”

“This cuts to the very heart of Liberty’s mission and every person who believes in sanctity of human life,” Staver said.

“Liberty University is also challenging this bill because it includes a government takeover of the student loan industry,” Falwell said.

“Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has stated that the government plans to increase interest charges that students will pay in order to finance the healthcare bill. He estimated that, in his state, students will pay an additional $1,800 in interest, generating billions of dollars for the government to pay for healthcare,” Falwell said.

“We believe that our students’ generation will bear the burden of the paying for socialized medicine,” Falwell said. “It adds insult to injury to increase the cost of student loans to pay for this misguided legislation.”

A local Lynchburg judge will rule on Liberty’s case, then it will go to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. Then, the case could reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Staver would like to see Liberty’s name linked to the overturning of nationalized health care, he said.

“This is a massive expansion of government intrusion in our lives,” Staver said. “We will take this bill head on, and Liberty will send a message that we will not compromise.”

Contact Melinda Zosh at

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