(Image: Sebastian Bergmann under CC 3.0)
Idaho is on the vanguard of a new trend: states passing laws to circumvent the Obama administration’s healthcare reform efforts. The state is the first to pass legislation forbidding the federal government from forcing people to buy health insurance plans. An individual mandate is central to Democrats’ attempt at bringing premiums down: without the guarantee of new customers, health insurance companies will refuse to accept people with pre-existing conditions at an affordable rate. However, it is controversial and unpopular. An alternative is the even less favored government-run public option as competition.
What exactly does the bill, passed and signed by a Republican legislature and governor, entail? It requires–not only allows–the attorney general to sue the federal government over the individual mandate. Supporters of the initiatives believe that the mandate infringes upon states’ rights. Although constitutional scholars think that federal law dominates state law (according to the supremacy clause), the 37 states with similar bills pending may be massive enough to change that. While there hasn’t been talk of a new Constitutional Convention yet, it would technically be possible with two-thirds of the states on board.
Some believe that the strategy may be more successful if the lawsuit is filed by an individual, who claims that the requirement to buy Idaho health insurance has harmed him or her. State governments may not have legal standing, so the Idaho Health Freedom Act may not be effective. Ironically, enforcement will also require the employment of a new deputy attorney general, and therefore more government spending.