Governor vows court challenge to health care legislation

Gov. Jim Gibbons on Monday called new federal health reform legislation unconstitutional and vowed to try to stop it.

Gibbons, a Republican, said he'll work with Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto to challenge the reform proposal in court.

"Regardless of the Attorney General's political affiliation, I am confident she will join me in opposing this illegal federal intrusion into our lives and our state's rights and sue the federal government," Gibbons said in a written statement.

But Masto declined Monday to commit to such a lawsuit.

Gibbons likened mandated health insurance to the federal government forcing someone to buy a car or television under the threat of being fined by the Internal Revenue Service.

"The federal government has no right to force anyone to buy health insurance and the federal government has no business butting into the relationship between a patient and their doctor," Gibbons said.

Nevada is one of several states in which political leaders are threatening action against the health care reform bill.

By Monday, at least 10 state attorneys general had promised to file suit against the federal government when President Barack Obama signs the bill. The states were Alabama, Colorado, Florida, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Michigan, Nebraska and Washington. Officials in North Dakota were weighing whether to join the case.

Masto said once the bill becomes law, she will analyze it for constitutional flaws.

"It is one thing to simply say, 'let's sue'; it is another thing to have a legal basis to support such litigation," Masto said. "I need to ensure that our state acts responsibly and I cannot make irresponsible statements without first having made a thoughtful and thorough legal review of the new law."

Dan Burns, a spokesman for Gibbons, said the governor will go forward with or without the attorney general.

"The governor has never surrendered and is not a quitter, so I am certain he would find a way," Burns said. "However, he would be very surprised and disappointed if Attorney General Masto didn't go to bat for the people of Nevada."

Burns said the legal costs of such a lawsuit would be "a hell of a lot less than Nevadans would pay" if the proposed reforms go into effect.

Gibbons said the bill will add more than 41,000 people to Nevada's Medicaid program in 2014 and expand Medicaid enrollment by nearly 60 percent over the following five years, costing the state general fund more than $613 million.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at or 702-477-3861.