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Virginia Law Allows Opt Out For Individual Health Insurance Mandate

Virginia State Capitol

RICHMOND, VA – Virginia state law makers passed laws earlier this month that are intended to nullify proposed health-care legislation that carries with it mandates for individuals to purchase health insurance.

Virginia is the first state to pass a law that would allow its residents to opt out of the proposed federal requirement for individuals to purchase health insurance, which is one of the elements of the proposed health care bill currently pending in Congress. State legislatures in Idaho and Utah also approved similar measures this month that would limit the scope of the proposed legislation. Several other state legislatures also are considering similar laws and are promoting constitutional amendments that would limit federal requirements. Most are following Virginia’s lead in nullifying the mandate on health insurance…

Will laws pass by states that would exempt their citizens from a federal law requiring all individuals to carry health insurance be able to stand up constitutionally?

Proponents of the new Virginia law cite the tenth amendment plus existing case law, but others have serious doubts that states can override Federal law. States have tried to resist federal laws before. For example, southern states tried this approach in the 1950s as a way avoid school integration.

The problem lies in the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause which essentially says that federal laws reign supreme.

The state bills are prone to be challenged in court. This would setup new legal battles over whether federal law can trump state laws.

The issue is heating up and is being debated all over the blogs. For example, in a recent article on the USA website, Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center, a non-partisan think tank in Los Angeles raises the question, “If there are enough states or people refusing to comply … what’s the federal government going to do?” The Tenth Amendment Center is an advocate for individual and states’ rights.

The Tenth Amendment Center website for the state of Colorado also discusses this issue. In an article written by Geoff Broughton, he asks a couple of important questions:

This leaves you with two very important questions you should answer before you make up your mind.  First, does the Constitution allow congress to mandate health insurance be purchased by every citizen simply for being alive?  Second, if the answer is no, what can be done if the Congress passes a law it is not legally allowed to pass?

The Arizona state Legislature passed a ballot measure in June that that will be put to the voters to decide. The issue is scheduled to go to Arizona voters in November, when they will be asked to amend the state’s constitution. If passed, the amendment would say that no “person or employer” could be compelled to participate in a health care system or insurance plan or pay a penalty for not participating.

Arizona Republican Rep. Nancy Barto sponsored the bill against the federal mandate in the state House. The USA Today article goes on to say that Barto expects the ballot initiative to pass but she also expects a legal challenge. “We are ready to fight that battle for the sake of all the states that are doing this,” Barto says.

At least four other states are also working on legislation or constitutional amendments – Utah, Idaho, Florida and Louisiana.


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