Stateline Story

Virginia Senate Bans Health Insurance Mandate

  • February 02, 2010
  • By John Gramlich

The Democratic-led Virginia Senate sent a strong message about health care reform efforts in Washington, D.C., on Monday (Feb. 1), passing a bill that makes it illegal for Virginians to be required to buy health insurance.

With Republicans in control of the state's House of Delegates and governor's mansion, the bill could become law, The Washington Post reported. The effort would throw another wrench into congressional Democrats' plans to revamp the nation's health care system in the wake of a special election in Massachusetts that stripped the party of its 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate.

An "individual mandate" that requires Americans to buy health insurance is a centerpiece of federal health care legislation. Virginia's move could suggest that President Obama — who reiterated his support for reform during his State of the Union address last week — "is failing to reassure members of his own party that current reform efforts remain worthwhile," The Post said.

A groundswell of opposition to the federal effort is emerging in statehouses around the country, The Associated Press reported today. Bills similar to the legislation cleared by the Virginia Senate are being considered in 35 states, with some lawmakers seeking constitutional amendments to prohibit mandatory health insurance. An Idaho legislative committee has approved a bill similar to Virginia's, and in Missouri, an overflow crowd showed up at a hearing room when that state's constitutional amendment was being debated, the AP reported.

What is notable about Monday's action in the Virginia Senate, however, is that Democrats joined the effort, which has been led by conservatives in most states. Five Democrats joined all 18 Republicans in opposition to a health care mandate. The votes "suggest that Democrats on the state level fear that supporting health care reform could be politically damaging," The Post said.