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Virginia Dems Turn Against Health Insurance Mandate

For the past year, the Obama administration and Democrats on Capitol Hill have been looking to pass a comprehensive healthcare reform bill. After the government-run public option favored by liberals was eliminated from contention, the prevailing options have involved increased regulation of the health insurance industry combined with a health insurance mandate. Officials in many states’ governments have promised to sue the federal government if the bill passes, claiming that the mandate provision is unconstitutional because the federal government doesn’t have the authority to force purchases from private health insurance companies. The majority of legal scholars believe that the mandate is constitutional, and the fact that most of the attorney generals threatening lawsuits are Republicans has led many to believe they were thinking more of political concerns than constitutional ones.

However, Democrats in the Virginia state legislature are now going against their own party. The state Senate passed a bill that would make such mandates illegal. The mandate, which is similar to the system active in Massachusetts and would require all people to buy individual health insurance (albeit with federal subsidies for lower- and middle-income Americans), is obviously unpopular with Republicans. Even though the Democratic party controls the state Senate, five members of its caucus broke ranks in order of voting for the measure banning mandates. For President Obama and supporters of healthcare reform, the situation is not looking good–in 2008, Virginia went for Obama. Admittedly, the Democrats who crossed over hail from conservative districts; but if members of his own party are beginning to lose their resolve in the face of mid-term elections, what’s next?

By the way, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell is likely to sign the bill, although some state senators say that the bill will be pre-empted by federal law and is legally worthless.

(Image: Mr. T in D.C. under CC 2.0)

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