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Nevada among 20 states in federal suit filed over health reform

Nevada Health Care Law Suit

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Gov. Jim Gibbons speaks to the media about Nevada joining 19 other states in a federal lawsuit that seeks to overturn the recently passed health care reform bill Friday, May 14, 2010.

Updated Friday, May 14, 2010 | 3:38 p.m.

Nevada Health Care Lawsuit

Gov.  Jim Gibbons speaks to the media about Nevada joining 19 other states in a federal lawsuit that seeks to overturn the recently passed health care reform bill Friday, May 14, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Nevada today officially joined 19 other states in a federal lawsuit filed in Florida against the federal health care reform law.

Gov. Jim Gibbons announced during an afternoon news conference that the state officially filed the paperwork to join the suit at 10 a.m. Las Vegas time. The governor said the National Federation of Independent Businesses also joined the lawsuit, which was filed in the Northern District of Florida, as a co-plaintiff on behalf of its members nationwide.

“This bill tramples the constitutional rights of every Nevadan,” Gibbons said. “We believe very strongly in our standing in this case, our ability to win and the fact that we think we are on the right track going forward with this litigation.”

The lawsuit alleges that the law infringes upon the constitutional rights of citizens by mandating all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage or pay a tax penalty.

Gibbons announced April 8 that Nevada would join the lawsuit. Las Vegas attorney Mark Hutchison agreed to work without pay to challenge the legality of the law, and Gibbons raised more than $3,500 for a “Constitutional Defense Fund” to pay filing costs.

The Republican governor has been publicly feuding with Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat who refused his directive to sue the federal government over the bill passed by Congress and signed in March by Obama.

Gibbons said the state already has spent $100,000 to prepare for the health care reform law to take effect, and he expects the entire planning phase to cost about $500,000. In 2014, the state will bear the full burden of Medicaid at a cost of $2.4 billion, he said.

The implementation of the law will make Nevadans worse off than they are now, the governor said.

“Every Nevadan has access to health care. Our health care system is the best in the world,” he said. “Even if you’re in the poverty standing right now, you can get health care. We are required to provide health care even to indigent people when they walk into a hospital.”

That doesn’t mean Gibbons is entirely opposed to health care reform, he said, calling the current law the “wrong approach at this time.”

“There are some good points of this bill. … There is no one saying some parts of that bill are not needed and probably good for America,” he said. “This bill has several features that do both trample the rights of the Constitution as well as cost the state of Nevada enormous amounts of money.”

Click to enlarge photo

Gov. Jim Gibbons speaks to the media about Nevada joining 19 other states in a federal lawsuit that seeks to overturn the recently passed health care reform bill Friday, May 14, 2010.

Gibbons said he thinks Congress should start over and come up with a better plan that doesn’t cost the state as much money.

“We can go back and do this correctly,” he said. “We can go back and get the United States Congress to enact a bill which doesn’t encroach upon the constitutional rights, doesn’t mandate an unfunded liability to the state of Nevada and allows for proper control of the health care costs and opening it up so more people can get health insurance.”

To his opponents who say Gibbons is using the health care issue to help his own re-election campaign, the governor said the Constitution is not a political issue.

“I took an oath of office that said I will protect the rights of the people of Nevada, the Constitution of this country. This law violates that Constitution,” he said. “I will not sit back and let any other state take charge of the rights of the people of Nevada.”

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