The Warren County Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday to pay a Washington D.C.-based law firm as much as $160,000, plus expenses and court costs, to represent the county in a federal lawsuit challenging a section of the Affordable Care Act.
The county, Ohio Attorney General’s Office and four universities filed a lawsuit last week in federal court in Cincinnati, challenging the section of the law, also known as Obamacare, that charges state and local governments $63 per employee through the new health care law’s transitional reinsurance program.
On Tuesday, the commissioners voted to retain the law firm of Kyle Duncan in the lawsuit.
Duncan was lead counsel in the Hobby Lobby case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the section of Obamacare requiring closely held corporations to offer contraception to employees through their health plans.
“He has great experience,” Commissioner Dave Young said. “Someone has to fight the fight.”
Duncan’s firm is to be paid $160,000 by Warren County if the lawsuit goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He is to be paid $10,000 for his work in preparing the initial lawsuit.
The state, Warren County, University of Akron and Bowling Green, Shawnee and Youngstown state universities paid $6.2 million under protest in transitional reinsurance program fees for 2015. The county estimates about $250,000 in charges over three years.
The lawsuit aims to have the section charging the fees to state and local governments declared illegal and unconstitutional, as well as win back the fees.
“We have to spend some money to help us get that money back,” Young said. “I’m confident this is a very good deal for the taxpayers of Warren County.”
Other than court costs and travel expenses, the state and Warren County should incur no extra costs for the work by lawyers from the county prosecutor’s or AG’s office.
Duncan’s firm earns up to $50,000, plus expenses and court costs, to work on the case in the district court.
If it is appealed to the U.S. Sixth District, the firm would earn up to another $30,000 — as much as $80,000 more if it goes to the Supreme Court, like the Hobby Lobby case.
Young said other local governments would help pay the fees, once they join the lawsuit.
So far, no other states, counties or local governments have joined the lawsuit.
On Tuesday, Commissioner Tom Grossmann suggested this was because they are satisfied to allow the AG’s office to handle the litigation.
“If they win, don’t we in essence win?” asked Grossmann, a civil lawyer working in the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office.
But Commissioner Pat South predicted other governments would join the legal action once they learn “what it is truly costing them.”