The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 17, 2013

Oklahoma A.G. suing feds over health care law fines

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Oklahoma is the “point of the spear” in attacking federal government implementation of health care exchanges as part of the new health care law.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said the federal government is attempting to punish states that did not establish their own health care exchanges. He spoke Tuesday to a meeting of Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce.

Pruitt is suing the federal government over the health care law because the Internal Revenue Service is imposing fines on employers who did not offer health insurance coverage, and whose employees use federal premium subsidies to buy coverage. Pruitt said the federal health care law states any fines would be levied through the health care exchange. Oklahoma is one of 34 states that did not implement an exchange, but employers were being fined anyway, he said. He accused federal agencies of acting outside the law.

“Forbes magazine said the Oklahoma lawsuit is the last hope to defund the health care act,” Pruitt said.

In addition to his comments about health care, Pruitt also listed a number of other alleged violations of the law by federal agencies. He told chamber members Congress prohibited the Environmental Protection Agency from acting on hydraulic fracturing.

“But the EPA has placed a bulls-eye on it,” he said.

Pruitt is concerned about EPA actions and recently filed a comment regarding it. Oklahoma and 12 other states also filed a comment on a Bureau of Land Management ruling adverse to fracturing.

“There are groups using consent decrees to change provisions of federal law,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt said the EPA also has coal and natural gas in it crosshairs. It denied an Oklahoma plan to reduce emissions, because the state still allowed use of fossil fuels. Pruitt said 50 percent of the United States uses coal for fuel, and if coal is eliminated, he questioned what would take its place, saying renewable fuels are not yet ready to take on such a load.

  State Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, asked Pruitt about possible challenges to the new state workers’ compensation laws. Jackson said he has heard there may be challenges.

Pruitt said he would not be surprised if challenges are filed. He commended the Oklahoma Legislature for its changes to the workers’ compensation system, moving it from an adversarial process to an administrative process.

Pruit said new system will benefit both employers and employees because it will save businesses money. The administrative system also will shorten the time workers get benefits, he said.