February 4th, 2010
04:29 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN Fact Check: State opposition to health care reform

(CNN) - Lawmakers in many states are trying to make it illegal to mandate that everyone buy health insurance - one of the key parts of the Democrats' health care reform efforts in Washington.

In Kansas, lawmakers filed a resolution this week that aims to alter the state constitution to do so. State Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook, a co-sponsor of the legislation says, "States have a duty to protect their citizens' liberty." Could these proposed amendments affect health care reform in the nation's capital?

Fact Check: Can state governments overrule federal regulations on health care?

(Get the facts and the bottom line after the jump)


– 31 states have filed or prefiled the Freedom of Choice Health Care Act, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafted the act. ALEC supports limited government.

– "It's symbolic opposition," said Robert Schapiro, a constitutional law professor at Emory University. "State governments cannot overrule federal legislation on health care."

– Schapiro also said there has been some discussion about letting states opt out, which would be a different case. "But, if Congress does not give the states the ability to opt out, the states cannot legally do so on their own," he said.

– Pilcher Cook says that some constitutional law scholars would disagree with Schapiro, because the state or an individual could file a lawsuit. Schapiro responds, "Even without a state law, a person could challenge the federal mandate, and the existence of a state law is essentially irrelevant for federal constitutional purposes."

Bottom Line: States must comply with any health care reform that passes in Congress, unless they're allowed to opt out. States would have the option to challenge the mandate in court.


Filed under: Fact Check • Health care
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Mike in MN

    I don't know if the states can protect the freedom of their citizens on this issue or not, but I am thrilled they are willing to try if need be.
    This will be a big issue with the Tea Party movement that wants to keep goverment out of our lives and let individuals decide what is best for them. Government control at this level is tirany.

    February 4, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  2. Brian in California

    I am a democrat and I don't like the mandate myself. I do, however, understand the premise behind it. The more people who have insurance, the less costs will be passed onto the insured due to care provided to the uninsured who can’t pay for treatments. However, what I do not like is that this will solely benefit the corporate insurance companies. These companies are part of the cost increase problem. Additionally, since there is no public option the government will be subsidizing the cost of insurance for those who can't afford it through the mandated coverage. THIS IS WHY WE NEED THE PUBLIC OPTION. I would much rather have my tax dollars going to pay for a government offered, not-for-profit healthcare insurance rather than to support the giant, corporate insurance companies. If people from both sides of the political spectrum looked at it that way, there would be less opposition to the public option.

    February 4, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  3. found work without help of stimulus or obama

    I cant wait for Obama to try to force me to buy insurance. Simply put, Obama cannot force me, so try and see what happens.

    February 4, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  4. Lynn

    Isn't it mandatory in all states we carry auto insurance?

    February 4, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  5. Gabriel Ohaver

    What about nullification? It is a states duty to protect it's citizens from harmful government interference. The same way the states fought the real ID act and the no child left behind.

    February 4, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  6. RTB

    What Reform?

    Mandating that everyone buy Health Insurance is a dumb excuse for health reform. Instead of true reform it plays into the hands of the Insurance industry.

    Health Insurance should be a not for profit industry like in the rest of the civilized world.

    February 4, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  7. Jim

    These lawmakers are a bunch of hypocrits. I didn't see them defending my liberty to not buy auto insurance from private companies when the states all started mandating it. And frankly, these same people fought having a public option from the federal government which at least is not privately owned. This is just more right wing grandstanding.

    February 4, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. jayindenver

    Cool! I bet we can enough states to pass amendments saying they refuse to use tax dollars to pay for presidential wars of choice, too! Sauce for the gander, Neocon(federate)s!

    February 4, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  9. Ray

    These politicians want you to be able to opt out of health insurance but all states require you to carry insurance on your car (no opt out here). How is health care different from car insurance, do these politicians value their car more than human health? Time to elect officials that see party first and country last.

    February 4, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  10. Tom

    I would like to Federal Government to show under which part of the Constitution that it has been granted the authority to force States to adopt a national health care system? The Tenth Ammendment deals with the seperation of State and Federal powers, and it doesn't have anything in there specific to allowing the Federal Government to force health care. Besides, if the public doesn't want it, what is the Federal Government going to do, arrest all of us? Please!

    February 4, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  11. key

    I own my car why can't I opt out of insurance premiums. Why because property is valued more than human life.

    February 4, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  12. Marc

    Hey people, remember the 60's? many States challenged the end of the 'Jim Crow Laws'. That doesn't looks good on their history books now.
    True, an individual or a group of individuals will always be able to challenge a Federal Law in the Courts, but until the SCOTUS says that the individual or the group is right, the Federal Law is still valid.
    Basic Hierarchy of Laws.

    February 4, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  13. spinnikerca

    Actually, the Constitution limits the power of the federal government to enumerated powers. The 10th amendment reserves all other powers to the states and to the people. There is no enumerated power to require 300 million people to purchase a product, if they don't want to. Yes, a law suit would result, as a practical matter, but these states are signalling in advance that they would bring one.

    February 4, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  14. Double Standards

    Then, why the HECK we HAVE to buy CAR INSURANCE or be THROW in JAIL????

    February 4, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  15. Rosa Birmingham, AL

    Good, the morons in my state would probably oppose it and then I would have to move. Can you imagine the population shifts if something like that happened?

    February 4, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  16. NELLIE BLY

    Your employer doesn't offer healthcare or what it does offer is so poor, you have huge medicals bills consequently. Now, your state is shutting you out of a fed plan that would help you. You'd move to another state, which is an extreme idea itself, but you can't afford to because your broke from buying your medicine and paying for doctor visits.

    February 4, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  17. Sean Palmer

    Can't states create their own legislation that effectively negates the federal health reform anyway? I believe it's called "nullification," and it derives it's authority from the Tenth Amendment.

    February 4, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  18. SC-Pub "no" more

    So, these idiot state right wing nuts had rather pay medicade for those who don't have insurance as opposed to them buying it ? This really makes sense.

    February 4, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  19. Becky

    Good if they do not want federal money they should be able to opt out of all of it...Of course...Maybe no one told them that they actually get more money in federal aid than they pay in taxes????

    February 4, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  20. Mike in Colorado

    I am all for people having the freedom to choose whether or not they want health care... The problem is Democrats are too nice. We (as Dems) should give the people what they want. The freedom to choose, but we should then make it completely illegal for these idiot Republicans to use the hospitals unless they have health insurance. These people don't want to be forced to buy health insurance because they either have it already, or enjoy using the hospitals free of charge.

    February 4, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  21. gwen

    We so desperately need a public option in this country – the insurance and drug companies are making a fortune off our backs!! We are the only country in the world where it's people have to worry about getting sick – and don't tell me you like your insurance and don't need a public option – I've worked in the health industry for 20 years and when I hear people say that I know they've not had a major health problem or they are rich – what about the rest of us???? You shouldn't have to worry about going bankrupt because you get sick!!! A public option is not socialism – socialism is when the government owns and operates the hospitals, clinics and doctors – so lets stop the anti-government fear mongering and get serious about helping our citizens, lowering healthcare cost, which would lower medicare/medicaid and stop the Obama bashing!!!!

    February 4, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  22. Avi Gordon

    The states created the federal government so they should be able to tel the federal government where not to mix in. How can representatives and senators of some states mandate what people of other states must or mustn't do? The people of each state through their local representatives should be able to determine for themselves what they want to do and the federal government should not have the right to force them to do the opposite.

    February 4, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  23. Really?!

    In typical Republican fashion – you know the party that "values" life so much? So it's ok for states to require car insurance, but it is a violation of someone's liberties to be required to buy health insurance. So again, life really isn't that important to the GOP – it's only an issue when they need something politically. Got it!

    February 4, 2010 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  24. Mrs. S Callahan

    I see this article more about the 'political posturing' than the actual conversation about Health Care. They KNOW that Federal dictate will overrule...so why waste the time on this frivilous, time and money consuming, nonesense. It would be time well spent to contact your Reps in DC and make your message clear.

    February 4, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  25. Geeze . . .

    @SC-Pub "no" more February 4th, 2010 5:19 pm ET

    So, these idiot state right wing nuts had rather pay medicade for those who don't have insurance as opposed to them buying it ?

    -------
    Where does your brain live - on Mars? Are you trying to imply that folks who use Medicaid would actually BUY insurance? NOT! They're certainly NOT doing it now. They're on Medicaid because they CAN'T or WON'T buy insurance, for whatever reason.

    As a matter of fact, in California they're mostly illegal immigrants.

    February 4, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
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