ST. LOUIS — Rep. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, and his wife filed suit against the federal government this week, arguing that their civil rights were violated by a recent health insurance change.
Wieland, a government employee, said when it was time to sign up for the Missouri Consolidated Plan this year, he wasn’t provided the chance to opt out of coverage for certain medical provisions for moral convictions.
“In July I got a letter saying that opting out was no longer an option for me, and it really kind of upset me because I’m a devout Catholic,” Wieland told The Missouri Times.
After receiving the letter, Wieland said he consulted a friend who works for an insurance company who told him there was no other option “because of Obamacare.”
Reaching a fork in the road, Wieland said he felt like he was in a no-win situation where he had to choose to cancel his insurance and potentially jeopardize his family, or go against his beliefs, he said. He then wrote a letter to the Catholic Conference, and was contacted by an attorney shortly after.
Tim Belz, an attorney with Ottsen, Leggat and Belz, L.C., and potentially Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, pending the approval of a pro hac vice motion. According to court documents, the defendants include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Treasury and the Department of Labor, and the case has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri
“We will be filing motions for the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction and we hope the government would have something to say in response to that,” Belz said about the next steps. “My hope is that we can get in front of a judge soon.”
Belz said he has never taken a case like this, but has worked with cases where businesses, rather than individuals, have filed similar lawsuits.
“To me, this is a stronger case than the businesses are,” he said. “And so far we’re seeing that the court is leaning toward the side of the people, not really the government.”
Belz said before Aug. 1, the addition of this ACA change that removed the opt-out that Wieland is upset about was not in place. For years, he said government employees have has the ability to “check the box.”
“The ACA is coming like a bull in a china shop and it’s disrupted our wonderful system in Missouri,” Belz said. “We hope to go back to how it was before.”
Wieland said he currently is still enrolled in the state insurance program as his legal battle continues.
On the political front, Wieland is the Republican candidate for Senate District 22 in 2014 against Democrat Rep. Jeff Roorda.
Ashley Jost is no longer with The Missouri Times. She worked as the executive editor for several months, and a reporter before that.