Rendell asks Corbett to drop health care suit

Gov. Rendell joined the chorus of Pennsylvania Democrats urging Attorney General Tom Corbett to drop his lawsuit against the national health care act. Corbett on Tuesday joined 12 other attorneys general in a federal suit alleging the law violates states' rights under the Constitution. Forty-three members of the state House and 19 state Senators have signed a similar letter asking Corbett to remove his name - and the Commonwealth's - from the suit.

Here is the Rendell letter in its entirety:

Dear Tom:
I write to urge you to refrain from taking any legal action that impedes the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its companion Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act. These bills will have an enormous positive impact on the lives of every single Pennsylvanian.

First and foremost, these bills will reduce the federal deficit by more than a trillion dollars over the next two decades. The current federal deficit presents an enormous threat to our nation's competitiveness and stability. The interest of both our nation and every single citizen are served by the substantial deficit reduction enabled by these bills.

But you know these bills do much more than improve our nation's financial condition.

These bills will provide tax credits this year to more than 150,000 small businesses across this state that are doing the right thing and providing health care benefits to more than 650,000 employees. One of the reasons that our state deficit is so severe is because each year more and more of our employers drop their health care coverage and, as a result, our Medicaid rolls are swelling. These federal tax credits preserve our employer-based health care system and, as a result, will relieve pressure on our state budget. Clearly, efforts to derail the implementation of these bills put our state's fiscal condition at greater risk.

These bills end the most reprehensible practice of our insurers - the denial of care or coverage based on a pre-existing condition. By this fall, the parents of every child in this state will be able to rely on their health care coverage to meet the needs of their children regardless of what illness their child may have had in the past, malformity that occurred at birth or injury they suffered in their early years. And the sickest among us - 140,000-plus Pennsylvanians - will be comforted by access to care via state high-risk pools so that they, too, regardless of conditions or sicknesses from the past, will get the care they need to get well or sustain their lives with dignity. When it comes to defending the rights of our citizens, it's hard for me to imagine a consumer right more worthy of your action and support.

Nearly 400,000 seniors who currently have to pay significant out-of-pocket expenses for prescriptions not covered by Medicare Part D will receive $250 rebates this year and, in a few years, those costs will be entirely covered. And nearly 1.5 million older Pennsylvanians who depend on Medicare and aren't enrolled in the Medicare Advantage Program will see their Medicare premiums drop. Any legal or legislative efforts to delay implementation will stop the allocation of these generous federal rebates and Medicare premium reductions to our seniors.

The most profound element of these bills is the guarantee that every Pennsylvanian will have access to affordable quality health care coverage. More than two million of our fellow Pennsylvanians who currently can't afford coverage will be able to rely, as you and I do, on our health care system for their needs. And more than a million Pennsylvanians who purchase health care on their own will be able to get help paying for the cost of that coverage so they can remain insured. No longer will millions of our citizens have to make the heart-wrenching choice between feeding their families and seeing a doctor.

It's hard to imagine that you take this action on behalf of those who may be sick or have a chronic illness but are uninsured. I certainly have never met a sick person who was uninsured and who didn't want care. Nor could you be taking this action to protect those who are healthy today and are without health insurance, because we all know that our health is mercurial. In all my travels across this state over the past 10 years, I never once met a single Pennsylvanian who said, "If health care was affordable, I wouldn't want it."

While I could enter into a detailed legal rebuttal, I know that others are preparing to make that case, and I believe they will have a winning argument. As such, I strongly believe in these very tough economic times when our state budget is at least a half a billion dollars out of balance, incurring the costs of a federal lawsuit on this matter is simply not in Pennsylvania's best interests. This is especially true when you consider that already others have declared their intent to file a suit. They could carry the costs of this legal parley rather than forcing our citizens to bear the costs.

I recognize that in your role you must make a determination based on the law of whether to engage in litigation on behalf of the residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I most certainly respect the fact that you alone are given the authority to determine when and how to enter into litigation to defend the interests of our citizens. But I urge you to reconsider your decision because these bills increase the quality of life of every Pennsylvanian and improve the economic condition of our state and nation. And they do so, in my estimation, not by infringing on our rights, but by enshrining the most basic of our human obligations - to care for those among us who are sick and need our help.

Edward G. Rendell

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