, Corbin, KY


June 7, 2013

‘Brain dead’ law denies state lawmakers constitutional control of Obamacare spending


Tea-party activists led by Jessamine County’s David Adams recently filed lawsuits in Franklin Circuit Court challenging Gov. Steve Beshear’s arrogant use of executive power to force Kentuckians to participate in the federal health-care boondoggle known as “Obamacare.”

Beshear claims he has the right to create a government-run health exchange and expand Kentucky’s Medicaid rolls – Obamacare’s state mandates – without agreement by lawmakers.

Adams and his band of freedom-loving litigators have an important message concerning Beshear’s disregard for the constitutional role of the legislature: “just because some politician says it doesn’t make it so.”

In his lawsuit challenging Beshear’s power to expand Medicaid in the commonwealth, Adams is combatting a state statute used by the governor to justify his domineering dictum.

Beshear claims that state statute KRS 205.520(3) allows him to force just about any kind of federal program related to health care on Kentuckians and gives him the authority to appropriate tax dollars without limit – and without legislative approval.

The statute appears to do just that, explicitly stating that “it is the policy of the Commonwealth to take advantage of all federal funds that may be available for medical assistance. To qualify for federal funds the secretary for health and family services may by regulation comply with any requirement that may be imposed or opportunity that may be presented by federal law.”

Adams rightly calls the law “brain dead.”

Considering it passed during the 1960s push for Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program, the extent to which this statute goes to bypass a debate on such open-ended spending is not surprising.  

Neither should it surprise us that left-wing fervor in the country during those times would grant an unelected executive-branch bureaucrat enormous power not only to profligately spend taxpayer dollars without any input by the people’s representatives, but also force Kentuckians to bow low and kiss the toe of whatever mandate the federal government kicks our way – as long as there are plenty of federally printed dollars hanging off that foot.

Adams says his goal in suing the governor is to “stop the creation of the state-run health exchange and cancel the Medicaid expansion.”

But that work ultimately belongs to legislators, not judges. And lawmakers in several states have already risen to the challenge. Florida, for example, is creating a private-insurance marketplace that provides better coverage and care for patients than the broken Medicaid system ever did.

Plus, responsible Sunshine State policymakers decided that picking up the $237 million annual price tag to cover 115,000 families that either don’t have insurance through their employers or don’t qualify for Medicaid was more financially responsible than spending the $51 billion that would come from Washington during the next decade to spend on a failed government-run program.

Beshear offers no plan for how Kentucky will pay the extra costs of adding more than 300,000 enrollees to Medicaid after the federal government quits picking up the full tab in three years.

He also shows little interest in the constitutional legitimacy of his executive orders.

Whatever Kentucky lawmakers think about Obamacare, they don’t want to be left out of a process that involves spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

Rather than filing so many meaningless bills and resolutions – as lawmakers bent on avoiding controversy but still wanting to appear productive to their constituents often do – the first bill filed during the 2014 session should be to undo the unconstitutional statute Beshear uses to justify his unilateral actions.

Not needing any undoing is the Kentucky Constitution, which already prohibits such power grabs.

On the books since 1891, Section Two states: “Absolute and arbitrary power over the lives, liberty and property of freemen exists nowhere in a republic.”

Jim Waters is acting president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at

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