Republican bill would allow states to ‘opt out’ of health care laws
Senate Republicans Lindsey Graham and John Barrasso have introduced legislation that would allow states to opt out of certain provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“Our legislation opens up a third front in the fight against Obama health care,” Sen. Graham said in a statement.
Republicans are hoping to win legal challenges against the new laws and have passed a repeal of them in the House.
But in some states, that legislation may actually be just another option in their fight against the law.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen declared Tuesday that “for Wisconsin, the federal health care law is dead” after a federal judge in Florida ruled Monday that key provisions of the health reform laws were unconstitutional. US District Judge Roger Vinson, a Reagan appointee, agreed with the 26 states that brought the lawsuit, ruling that Congress cannot penalize individuals who do not buy insurance.
“Judge Vinson declared the health care law void and stated in his decision that a declaratory judgment is the functional equivalent of an injunction,” a statement from Attorney General Hollen’s office said. “Effectively, Wisconsin was relieved of any obligations or duties that were created under terms of the federal health care law.”
That could mean any state with an attorney general who opposes health care reform would be able to simply prevent the laws from being implemented, at least until the Supreme Court has a chance to rule on an appeal.
In mid-December, a federal judge in Virginia also ruled against the health reform laws, similarly declaring unconstitutional the “individual mandate” provision.
The Obama administration said it would appeal the rulings. The case was widely seen as one which would end up before the US Supreme Court.
Sens. Graham and Barrasso’s legislation would grant states the ability to opt out of the requirement for individuals to buy government-approved health insurance and for businesses to provide health insurance. The bill would also allow states to opt out of the expansion of state Medicaid programs and new federal requirements for regulating health insurance.
“Our bill takes the fight out of Washington and puts it back in the states,” Sen. Graham said. “I would hope every Senator, regardless of party, would give the people of their home state a chance to be heard. I’m confident that if given the chance, a large number of states would opt-out of the provisions regarding the individual mandate, employer mandate, and expansion of Medicaid. As more states opt-out, it will have the effect of repealing and replacing Obamacare.”
While some states have been working to repeal the Affordable Care Act, other lawmakers have taken it in a different direction. In Vermont, officials were seeking to opt-out of the laws in order to implement a single-payer health care system supported by a majority of the state’s voters.
“It is my strong hope that Vermont will lead the nation in a new direction through a Medicare-for-all single-payer approach,” said Sen. Sanders (I-VT), a longtime single-payer advocate who last year tried and failed to garner support for the program in Congress.