WASHINGTON -- Why isn’t Sen. John Ensign up in arms about government-mandated car insurance?


The Nevada Republican suggested last week that proposals to fine those who flout an individual health care mandate doesn’t pass constitutional muster.

Politico reported Ensign was particularly worried for “those very people who conscientiously, because they believe in the U.S. Constitution, we could be subjecting them to fines or the interpretation of a judge, all the way up to imprisonment.”

"That seems to me to be a problem,” Ensign said.

According to Politico, Joint Committee on Taxation Chief of Staff Tom Barthold said under a mandate, people who don't buy health insurance--or pay as much as a $1900 fee for failing to do so--could be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to a year in jail or a $25,000 penalty.

The Senate Finance Committee, where Ensign holds a seat, rejected two proposals last night to include a government-run insurance plan in health care reform legislation. The health insurance mandate included in Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus' proposal is still being debated.

Most states already require people who own cars to purchase insurance before they can put the vehicles on the road.

In Ensign's home state, the law requires all drivers be insured for a minimum of $15,000 for bodily injury or death of 1 person in any one accident, at least $30,000 for bodily injury or death of 2 or more people in any one accident and a minimum of $10,000 for the injury or destruction of property of others.

In fact, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles enforces auto insurance law with a particular zeal.

DMV spokesman Tom Jacobs told Raw Story the state has an “insurance verification program” designed to catch those who let their insurance lapse. All Nevada insurance companies are required to turn over their rosters each month to the state, which then compares the names of all who have registered vehicles to those who have insurance.

If you’ve got a car, but no insurance, you’re in trouble.

“They'll get a letter that says their registration is suspended if they don’t get it taken care of within a certain time period,” Jacobs said to Raw Story. “Even if they do take action, they would still be fined $250 for the lapse. It is required by law that if you're on a Nevada roadway, you better be insured.”

But Ensign doesn't appear as eager to defend the rights of conscientious objectors to government mandates on car insurance: his staff did not return four requests for comment from Raw Story.