Va. bill challenges mandated health care

Published 10:54 pm Monday, February 22, 2010

RICHMOND — Weighing in on the debate over federal health care reform, state lawmakers have passed legislation declaring that no one can force Virginians to buy health insurance.

Both the House and Senate have passed Senate Bill 417, and last week it was sent to Gov. Bob McDonnell for his signature.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Winchester, says that no Virginia resident “shall be required to obtain or maintain a policy of individual insurance coverage.” The measure also says a Virginia resident cannot be “liable for any penalty, assessment, fee, or fine as a result of his failure to procure or obtain health insurance coverage.”

SB 417 passed the Senate on a 23-17 vote and the House on a 66-29 vote.

On a 72-26 vote, the House has passed a similar proposal, House Bill 10, called the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act. It would protect an individual’s right to refuse to participate in a health care plan. The bill also says that Virginians can’t be fined for declining to get health coverage.

HB 10, which is sponsored by Delegate Robert G. Marshall, R-Manassas, is now in the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor.

Both HB 10 and SB 417 are aimed at the health care plan advocated by President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. As part of an overhaul of the nation’s health care system, they want to require Americans to get health insurance. Advocates of this approach say it would cut health care costs.

The Richmond Tea Party and other politically conservative groups oppose government involvement in health care. They have held rallies supporting bills like HB 10 and SB 417. At a rally at the Virginia Capitol in January, speakers said it would be unconstitutional for the federal government to enforce health care regulations.

State Delegate Betsy Carr, D-Richmond, disagrees with the Tea Party’s views.

“House Bill 10 is an effort to frustrate the national health care reform,” Carr said.

She voted against HB 10 and SB 417 because she wants the federal government involved. “I think that is something that we crucially need,” Carr said.

Delegate Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond, voted for HB 10 and SB 417. He said he wants to make sure individuals’ rights are protected.

“I do not believe that the government can tell me to buy and eat a Big Mac,” Loupassi said. He thinks the federal government would assume too much power if health insurance were mandated.

“I do not believe that the government can make me buy private insurance,” Loupassi said.