Local man joins 26 states in national health care lawsuit

Local man joins 26 states in national health care lawsuit
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. signs the Senate Health Reform bill, Monday, March 22, 2010, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
PORT ANGELES, Wash. - Kaj Ahlburg, a retired New York City investment banker who lives in Port Angeles, is among those suing the federal government over a new health care law in a case his lawyer said Thursday is sure to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ahlburg, 51, has joined with the National Federation of Independent Business, Mary Brown of Florida and 26 states, including Washington, in challenging the landmark Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, which President Barack Obama signed into law March 30, 2010.

Their lawsuit contends that the law encroaches on individual liberties by requiring individuals to have health insurance and on state sovereignty by "forcing" states "to operate a wholly refashioned Medicaid program," according to the lawsuit.

Ahlburg, who has lived on the North Olympic Peninsula with his wife, Laura, and their children since 2003, is the newly elected president of the Port Angeles Business Association and a former member of the now-defunct Harbor-Works Development Authority board of directors.

A corporate finance lawyer before he was an investment banker, Ahlburg said Thursday that on the advice of his attorney, David Rivkin of Washington, D.C., he could not comment on the case.


 Kaj Ahlburg

"Some day I can talk more about it, but right now, I have to follow that advice," Ahlburg said.

"My views in general have been on the record, in letters to the editor."

In a prescient March 29, 2010, letter to Peninsula Daily News, one day before President Obama signed the new law, Ahlburg challenged it as "blatantly unconstitutional," in particular the requirement that individuals buy health care insurance.

While 32 million Americans who cannot afford health care coverage or who have been shut out of the market eventually will have insurance under the law, most Americans who don't buy coverage will face a penalty of $95 in 2014 that rises to $695 in 2016.

"It would be akin to requiring us to buy certain kinds of food or rent certain kinds of housing the federal government designates," Ahlburg said in his letter to the editor.

"Each individual citizen has standing to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate, and many undoubtedly will . . ."

Brown, 55, owns Brown & Dockery Inc., a car repair business in Panama City, Fla.

She would not comment Thursday on the lawsuit, referring questions to Rivkin, but said she does not know Ahlburg.

The case is "one of the most important cases in American history," said Rivkin, a lead lawyer for all those challenging law.

"It most certainly go all the way to the Supreme Court."

Rivkin said "a number of people contacted us" to join as plaintiffs."

Rivkin could not remember how Ahlburg came to his attention.

But he stood out during several interviews that fleshed out his interest in the lawsuit, Rivkin said.

"I was struck by his conviction and sincerity and belief in constitutional principles."

The lawsuit was initiated by the state of Florida March 23, 2010, in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida, and was later joined by the other parties.

Ahlburg's name was added as a plaintiff in an amended complaint filed May 14, 2010.

Ahlburg has not had health insurance for more than six years "and has no intention or desire to have health care insurance in the future," according to the amended complaint.

Rivkin said he expects the case will be appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta and be decided by the Supreme Court in mid-2012.

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This is a condensed version of a story in the Peninsula Daily News, a media partner of KOMO News. Read the original Daily news story with comments.