Today, Missouri voters will weigh a measure that would reject a key provision of President Barack Obama's health care reform package -- the provision mandating that individuals either find insurance coverage, or pay a fine.
But while this vote has been painted by some Obamacare supporters as merely symbolic, a potential cry against congressional reforms instead of a vote with actual impact, a key ruling from a federal judge in Virginia yesterday suggests just the opposite.
Virginia's governor signed a bill into law in March, attempting to head off the mandatory health insurance rule -- the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act. The state subsequently filed suit in the Eastern District of Virginia, arguing that the congressional mandate that individuals get insurance coverage conflicted with state law, and ultimately, was unconstitutional.
Yesterday, in a detailed 22-page ruling, Judge Hudson denied the federal government's motion to dismiss the claim.
Judge Hudson wasn't ruling on the merits per se. But he did find that Virginia has standing to challenge the provisions and that the issue is ripe for decision.
"While the mandatory compliance provisions of the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision do not go into effect until 2014, that does not mean that its effects will not be felt by the Commonwealth [of Virginia] in the near future," Hudson writes. "This provision will compel scores of people who are not currently enrolled to evaluate and contract for insurance coverage. Individuals currently insured will be required to be sure that their present plans comply with this regulatory regimen. Insurance carriers will have to take steps in the near future to accomodate the influx of new enrollees to public and private plans. Employers will have to determine if their current insurance satisfies the statutory requirements.
"More importantly, the Commonwealthy must revamp its health care program to ensure compliance with the enactment's provisions, particularly with respect to Medicaid. ... Unquestionably, this regulation radically changes the landscape of health insurance coverage in America."
Later in his ruling, Hudson concludes, "While this case raises a host of complex constitutional issues, all seem to distill to the single question of whether or not Congress has the power to regulate -- and tax -- a citizen's decision not to participate in interstate commerce."
That kind of analysis could prove key not to only to Virginia's efforts to block the law, but also similar efforts now underway by Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder -- and the ultimate legality of the referendum Missouri voters are being asked to consider today.
So whether you love the details of health care reform or hate it (and polls suggest that even if you're a lefty, you may well hate it), get thee to the polls! Your future insurance coverage may ultimately be affected more by an extremely low turnout primary election than by all the hulabaloo we heard in Washington, D.C. last summer.
Kind of amazing. So go vote already.
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