RALEIGH — The same day a federal judge in Florida struck down ObamaCare as unconstitutional, North Carolina Democrats assembled at the Legislative Building in Raleigh to assail a GOP-led effort to exempt state residents from the law’s most controversial aspect — the individual mandate.
The bill would allow residents to opt out of the law’s requirement that every American purchase health insurance by 2014, or face penalties. It also would compel Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, to join a multi-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the health insurance reforms.
A House Judiciary Committee voted largely along part lines Jan. 27 to pass the measure. Sponsors say the bill will be debated on the full House floor Wednesday.
At the press conference Jan. 31, Democrats complained that Republicans — the majority party for the first time since the 19th century — are rushing the bill through and haven’t allowed the minority party enough input in the debate
Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, said the GOP opt-out bill would create “unnecessary costs and unintended consequences.” In contrast, the reforms passed by Congress last year, she said, would provide health insurance to 1 million currently uninsured Tar Heel State residents.
“That’s going to create an enormous number of jobs in the health care industry,” Insko said. “It will create the need for more drug stores, more pharmaceutical employees, for more allied health care professionals. It’ll increase the enrollment in our community colleges … So it is a job creating bill, it is not a job killing bill.”
In response, Rep. Tom Murry, a Wake County Republican and a primary sponsor of the opt-out bill, said there are many examples of companies that will have to lay off workers to comply with the individual mandate.
“Individuals and businesses are looking at their financial house today and planning for the 2014 individual mandate, and are cutting back in order to comply,” Murry said. “That’s not going to help our economic development.”
Charles van der Horst, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the UNC School of Medicine, also spoke at the press conference. He compared the individual mandate to car insurance.
“Many people say you can’t require someone to buy insurance,” he said. “Well, we require people to get car insurance. If they don’t have car insurance, and they get in an accident, what happens? It goes on your insurance.”
Critics point out, however, that one is not required to drive or own a car, and those who don’t are not required to purchase auto insurance.
Two recent polls indicate that a majority of North Carolinians continue to support a full or partial repeal. Fifty-four percent of voters say all or part of the law should be rescinded, according to a Jan. 31 poll from the Democratic-aligned Public Policy Polling.
The same day, the conservative Civitas Institute released a poll showing that 63 percent of North Carolinians support legislation allowing patients to opt out of the health care law.
Florida District Court Judge Roger Vinson ruled Jan. 31 that ObamaCare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. Because the individual mandate is not severable from the rest of the act, the judge ruled, the entire law must be scrapped.
David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.