TN attorney general didn’t find Obamacare fight worthwhile

Chris Butler
|
Jul 29, 2014 5:00 AM
TN attorney general didn’t find Obamacare fight worthwhile

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — Obamacare’s harsh effects throughout all of Tennessee apparently failed to persuade state Attorney General Bob Cooper  to join 27 other states in fighting the law in court.

As most observers of this summer’s Tennessee Supreme Court retention election already know, there’s a chance his decision might cost justices Gary Wade, Connie Clark and Sharon Lee, all Democrats, a retention election Aug. 7.

Tennessee voters do not elect Cooper to his position. Instead, by state law, the state Supreme Court appointed Cooper, also a Democrat, to an eight-year term scheduled to end this year.

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper

In a statement to News Channel 5 of Nashville’s Phil Williams, Cooper said “the office took a conservative approach to the expenditure of taxpayer dollars” in choosing not to fight.

“This office determined that Tennessee’s participation in the lawsuit would not have been an appropriate use of limited state resources because participation would have cost money during difficult economic times while providing no additional benefit to the state,” Cooper said. 

Americans For Prosperity Tennessee Chapter Director Andrew Ogles told Tennessee Watchdog that Cooper still wasn’t acting in the state’s best interests.

“His job is to represent Tennessee,” Ogles said.

“Given our history with expanded health care, Tennessee should have had an important leadership role in that initiative, because our opposition comes from our own state experience, our own experience with TennCare nearly bankrupting Tennessee.

“The fact that he is unable to make that connection in my mind says he’s out of touch with Tennesseans and out of touch with the facts.”

As Tennessee Report said in 2012, former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, faced with ballooning health-care costs, at one time had to cut 350,000 Tennessee residents from TennCare, the state’s version of Medicaid.

Tennessee Watchdog left messages via phone and email seeking comment from Cooper’s office, but no one immediately responded Monday.

As Tennessee Watchdog reported, Obamacare will likely cost the state as much as $1.4 billion over the first five years of implementation, according to the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office.

Health insurance rates in Tennessee, meanwhile, are going up at least 50 percent, said Brenda Williams, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Medical Association, the state’s largest organization of physicians, in an interview last year.

Additionally, some local governments, such as those in White County, are raising taxes by $1 million per year so all county employees will have health insurance.

Meanwhile, as Tennessee Watchdog reported last year, Smith and Nephew, a medical device manufacturer in Memphis, laid off 100 employees in February. Company officials blamed Obamacare’s 2.3 percent Medical Device Tax on yearly sales as the culprit.

Andrew Ogles

Andrew Ogles

Memphis is home to several companies that make medical devices, such as hip replacements and heart stints.

As Tennessee Watchdog reported last year, Obamacare has introduced a litany of costly entitlement programs, courtesy of a $15.1 million federal grant, through the Prevention and Public Health Fund.

The fund pays for, among other things, putty for Tennessee’s smokers to squeeze to control cravings, as well as breath mints. Williamson County, one of Tennessee’s most affluent areas, received $20,000 to fund a computer-based fitness program to test students’ aerobic abilities.

Cooper gave no assurances that he would join Oklahoma Attorney General Bob Pruitt, a Republican, in another Obamacare-related lawsuit against the federal government, this one on the grounds that states opting not to create their own health exchanges under Obamacare, including Tennessee, don’t have to participate in the employer mandate.

The mandate levies a tax on businesses with 50 or more employees that fail to comply with provisions of the law.

The editors of National Review also agree with Pruitt’s interpretation of the law and called upon governors, attorneys general and lawmakers in other states without their own exchanges to form a united front with Oklahoma.

On Monday, Pruitt’s spokesman, Aaron Cooper, told Tennessee Watchdog that the case is before Judge Ronald White in Oklahoma’s Eastern District and a decision could come any day.

“No other state has joined,” the spokesman said.

“Indiana filed its own separate lawsuit with similar claims.”

If appealed, the Oklahoma case would then go to Denver’s 10th Circuit Court.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

Get regular Tennessee Watchdog updates through our Facebook or Twitter accounts  

Click here to get Tennessee Watchdog articles sent directly to your email inbox (click Tennessee under “Watchdog News Updates)

Like Watchdog.org? Click HERE to get breaking news alerts in YOUR state!