Virginia first state in nation to pass anti-mandate health reform bill

While 34 other states have considered or partially passed legislation to ban any federal mandate to secure health insurance coverage, the Virginia General Assembly has passed a bill that is expected to get the signature of the state’s governor.

By an 80-17 vote, the Virginia House of Delegates passed HB 10, sponsored by Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-13th District), which states that no resident of the commonwealth shall be required to obtain or maintain individual insurance coverage. All 17 “nay” votes were cast by Democratic delegates.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, has already said he would sign the bill into law, making Virginia the first state in the nation to challenge any mandates that could be handed down from Washington, D.C.

As Congress and the Obama Administration continue to seek common ground on a comprehensive health reform bill, one area of agreement from both sides – as well as the health insurance industry – is a mandate that individuals obtain health coverage, a key to ensure that people do not forgo coverage until they become sick.

As in Virginia, several states are weighing whether such state legislation can challenge federal authority, setting up a possible U.S. Supreme Court case in the eyes of some.

After filing his bill earlier this year, Marshall told that the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act would protect individuals’ rights and stop abuses in the nation’s capitol he said had similarities to criminals.

“Mobsters used to offer ‘protection’ to business owners, so when Congress says that if individuals don’t become customers of businesses that contribute to them, to me that crosses the line,” Marshall said. “For me, it is hard to distinguish what is going on in Washington, D.C., from criminal activity.”

On the same day the Virginia General Assembly passed Marshall’s bill, the Idaho Senate also approved the Idaho Health Freedom Act (HB 391), which deems the individual mandate unconstitutional and permits the state to sue Congress or any other body enforcing such a mandate.