Kansas Moves Closer To Invalidating Individual Health Insurance Mandate

kansas-state-seal_mediumHealth care reform may not have enough votes to pass Congress, but state lawmakers are pushing ahead with constitutional challenges to the individual health insurance mandate. Yesterday, a committee in the Kansas House of Representatives approved, a “ballot measure that would invalidate any laws that mandate individuals “to participate in any health care system or purchase health insurance.”

“A person or employer may pay directly for lawful health care services and shall not be required to pay penalties or fines for paying directly for lawful health care services,” the legislation says:

‘Explanatory statement. The purpose of this health care freedom amendment is to preserve constitutionally the right and freedom of Kansans to provide for their health care.…Nothing in this amendment is meant to discourage anyone from purchasing health insurance

The measure will now go to the full House. “It would need two-thirds approval there and in the Senate before being added to a statewide ballot to be decided by voters. An identical measure was passed without recommendation earlier this session by the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee but remains lodged in the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Legislatures in approximately 30 states have introduced similar initiatives and Congressional Republicans have pledged to support their efforts, promising to “spend the rest of the year in the campaign to try to repeal.” But these campaigns to repeal reform are more about energizing the base and raising campaign funds than registering a serious policy disagreement. Republicans had supported the individual health insurance mandate as recently as August 2009, and any successful state measure to repeal the mandate will be superceded by federal legislation.

On a policy note, the reason for including an individual mandate is fairly straight forward. The individual mandate creates incentives for otherwise healthy Americans to purchase insurance and may be the the only way to achieve affordable universal coverage. Without a mandate, only the sick who need health care would be motivated to purchase it. The pool of insured would be weighted with sick individuals, forcing the costs of the premium to escalate.