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NC Senate passes challenge to federal health care law

Posted February 17, 2011
Updated February 18, 2011

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— North Carolina lawmakers have approved a state challenge to the federal health care overhaul.

It’s the second major piece of legislation the new GOP majority will send to the desk of Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue.

The proposal would outlaw a key provision in last year's federal health care reform by making it illegal to force people to buy health insurance or to punish them for refusing to do so. The state attorney general would be required to fight any federal challenge to the bill.

Introducing the measure, Sen. Austin Allran, R-Catawba, cited two pending federal lawsuits against health care reform. “The basis of this bill is that the federal law is unconstitutional,” he said.

Sen. Debbie Clary, R-Gaston, said she believes Congress overstepped its authority by requiring everyone in the country to purchase health insurance.

“Should the people of North Carolina purchase health care insurance? Absolutely, they should,” Clary said. “Should they be forced to purchase health care insurance? Absolutely not. There’s where the line is drawn.”

Clary warned federal health care reform would exact a high price from the government and taxpayers, and it would take a toll on private employers, too.

“If the federal mandate is enacted, we believe that job creation will be negatively impacted,” she said, adding that many employers would likely choose to break the law, since the fine for disobeying the mandate is cheaper than the cost of compliance. ”You’re criminalizing your industry across this state.”

But Scotland Democrat and retired doctor Bill Purcell argued that, unless the costs of health care are spread over the entire population, both healthy and ill, the price of insurance will only continue to rise. “Who does this bill help? It helps people who want to take a free ride on the back of the people who have taken the responsibility of buying health insurance," he said.

Purcell asked Allran what his plan would be for controlling health care costs if the anti-mandate bill succeeds.

Allran answered that the state could take its own steps to impose a mandate as Massachusetts did. “The only thing this bill does is say the individual mandate is unconstitutional, and it is," he said.

Purcell countered, “So, sir, what you’re saying is that you don’t have a plan. Is that what I heard?"

Johnston Republican David Rouzer said the GOP’s plan is to cut government regulation of health care, which he says is to blame for the lack of competition in the insurance industry. He said medical malpractice reform would lower costs “significantly.”

Cumberland Democrat Eric Mansfield, a doctor himself, said there are things about the federal bill he doesn’t like, but it gets one thing right.

“For the first time in the history of America, we gave the people who get up and strap their boots on, work in jobs most of us would never want to work in, drive trucks do things in construction, they got health care for the first time," he said.

Mansfield talked about the difficulty of seeing working patients who can’t afford needed surgeries, while his other patients who “don’t want to work” get cheap co-pays and diagnostics. “It’s an inequity in our system.”

But he also pointed out that 1.7 million uninsured North Carolinians run up an annual $1.8 billion bill for unpaid health care, a cost that’s passed on to everyone who pays for insurance. “You say this bill is gonna cost us money. Not having this bill is already costing us money,” he said.

The measure made it through the Senate Wednesday on a party-line vote, 30-18. It goes back to the House for one final vote to approve some minor changes the Senate made. After that, it goes to Perdue, who hasn’t yet said whether she’ll veto it.

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  • bettyboopr2 Feb 17, 2011

    If you can't afford it, don't worry the TAXPAYERS will pay for it for you just like we are doing now. The TAXPAYERS are the ones getting screwed over and over again, so why change now? There will come a time when WE will be tapped out, then what? Who will pay for "social agenda" then?

  • mep Feb 17, 2011

    clayt85... the CBO says it will save money based ONLY by the numbers it was given. And it admits those numbers are pretty darn rosy, if not flat out impossible. The numbers provided to the CBO also left our several of the "associated" costs of the health care reform. This included leaving out the so-called "doc fix" which is preventing doctors from dropping Medicare patients because govt reimbursements for their service is far too low. It you factor in ALL of the costs of this bill, and the fact the bill does NOTHING to actually control costs... it does cost more than leaving the system as it is. (which I do not support) There are better ways to fix the health care problems, and mandating everyone buy health insurance is not one of them.

  • SaltyOldJarhead Feb 17, 2011

    I already have to purchase insurance or pay a fine - have for years. It's called car insurance and don't bother giving me some song and dance about how "you don't have to drive" in the US.

    Anyone who votes for this thinks it's OK to pay $1500/mo. for health insurance.

    Anyone who votes for this thinks there is nothing wrong with our health system in the US.

    Anyone who votes for this thinks it's OK for insurance companies to take your monthly payments and then disown you when you get sick.

    Anyone who votes for this thinks it's OK for everyone to go to the emergency room when they have a cold and then blow off the bill so that responsible folks with insurance get to pay for it.

  • donnieedwards Feb 17, 2011

    Of the 1.8 billion in cost of uninsured, the largest part of that is from illegal immigrants using our hospitals as their free clinics for everything from colds, accidents, baby delivery, and surgery. NO ONE IN NC goes with out treatment. If you can't pay after you have had treatment, the hospitals write it off and over collect from those of us that do have insurance. The physicians are the main reason we have insurance problems. Over ordering procedures that raise the cost to insurers, thus raise the cost of buying insurance. Follow the lead from Georgia and pass a law that says if you can't prove you are here legally, don't go to our hospitals. That is why over 50,000 illegal immigrants quickly left Georgia for North Carolina and our burden continues to grow. We have the highest taxes in the Southeast, and folks that pay those are going to leave sooner or later leaving NC as a welfare safe harbor state.

  • LambeauSouth Feb 17, 2011

    Hey Clay, not only that but this is a pure waste of our Tax dollars. As soon as this becomes Federal Law, Federal Law trumps State law, that has been proven in Federal Courts.

  • hcaufield Feb 17, 2011

    The states had no qualms enforcing seat belt laws which reduced injury and death and lowered rates. Everyone carrying health care will have the same if not a greater effect. If the legislator decides to make health care voluntary then who pays for those without insurance when they need it? The NC taxpayer.

  • clayt85 Feb 17, 2011

    "Clary warned federal health care reform would exact a high price from the government and taxpayers, and it would take a toll on private employers, too."

    How many times do I have to read this statement before people finally learn that it is false? The legislation will *save* money. Repealing the legislation will *cost* money. Its called the CBO people. Google it.

    @MrCrosbys conveniently overlooks the fact that 2 federal judges have found the law perfectly constitutional. You do not get to pick 1/2 of the facts.

  • georgedpeterson Feb 17, 2011

    grandmagail, no, you are given a stipend to pay for it if you can't pay for it yourself. mrcrosbys, more judges have upheld the law than declared it invalid. Do more research.

  • mrcrosbys Feb 17, 2011

    This is old news. A Federal Judge has already declared that part of the law unconstitutional. Again, NC is at the rear, following suit with what other states do.Maybe NC could make decisions for itself in the future instead of just following others. It has been that way here since the civil war. Nobody like a follower

  • Bring on the 4 Dollar Gas Feb 17, 2011

    Pass the buck Bev will jsut veto it. It's toast.

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