Yes, Virginia, there is a 'death panel.' His name is Ken Cuccinelli, the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Soon after the House of Representatives passed health-care reform legislation, Cuccinelli tweeted: "Well, they did it. Once the president signs it into law, we'll walk across the street and file suit b/c the ind mandate is unconstitutional."
President Obama has indicated he will sign the bill on Tuesday. Cuccinelli will challenge the constitutionality of the health-care legislation "as soon as the ink is dry" on the President's signature.
He plans to argue before the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, that the legislation exceeds the federal government's powers over interstate commerce. "When the fed law is unconstitutional, state law trumps federal law," Cuccinelli said. "And that's the situation we say we have now."
In Virginia, where I live, Cuccinelli could ultimately deprive some two million people of care they would otherwise receive under the new legislation. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates:
- 1.2 million [Virginia] residents who do not currently have insurance and 344,000 residents who have nongroup insurance could get affordable coverage through the health insurance exchange.
- 684,000 residents could qualify for premium tax credits to help them purchase health coverage.
- 1.1 million seniors would receive free preventive services.
- 190,000 seniors would have their brand-name drug costs in the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole" halved.
- 93,400 small businesses could be helped by a small business tax credit to make premiums more affordable.
The people who will be most harmed if Cuccinelli succeeds will be Virginians who have jobs but make too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to afford health insurance. That would include most of the people who live in Wise County, located in Virginia's Appalachian Southwest.
One-fifth of the county's residents fall below the poverty line.
Depleted coal seams and mechanized mining have eliminated the jobs many used to have. Once a year, volunteer physicians, nurses and dentists come to the Wise County Fairgrounds for three days. They string sheets across clotheslines to create "examination rooms" in tents and livestock exhibition halls to provide a modicum of privacy for the hundreds of people they examine and treat. For most, this is their only opportunity for medical or dental care.
These are precisely the people who most need, and will most benefit, from health-care reform. And these are precisely the people that Attorney General Cuccinelli would deny health care under the new legislation.
If his lawsuit succeeds, Ken Cuccinelli, self-proclaimed right-to-life advocate, will have transformed himself into a 'death panel' of one.
Follow Peter J. Ognibene on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PJOgnibene