A federal judge in Florida this week struck down the law as unconstitutional in a case joined by 26 states, including Alaska. A major point of contention is a provision requiring citizens to buy health insurance.
Parnell told reporters that he took an oath to support and defend the constitutions of the United States and Alaska. While the Republican governor concedes the issue is expected to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, he said he has a duty to uphold the law and wants Attorney General John J. Burns to advise on what that duty is after the Florida ruling.
"I'm caught between a federal government that says, 'You must pursue this, you must pursue this,' and I have the duty to uphold the rule of law," he said.
Parnell gave no timetable for receiving Burns' opinion.
Two federal judges have upheld the law, and another ruled the insurance mandate unconstitutional but did not strike down the rest of it. Parnell said the bottom line is: "The state is a party to an action where that law was declared unconstitutional. That's the difference right now."
State Sen. Hollis French, an outspoken supporter of the health care law, said Parnell is "overreacting to a ruling of just one of 600 federal judges."
French, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor last year, said provisions such as allowing for children to remain on their parents' policies until they're 26 years of age, or not letting insurance companies drop people because they get sick, are threatened if implementation of the law is disrupted.
"The real effect on the ground is, Alaska consumers will be hurt if we don't embrace some of these good reforms," said French, of Anchorage.
In the past, he said, lower court judges have found things like the federal minimum wage unconstitutional, decisions later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"One lower court ruling shouldn't excite us too much," he said.