State tackles national health care
by Scott Nicholson
The first non-procedural bill filed by the N.C. House of Representatives seeks to undermine federal legislation requiring all people to have health insurance beginning in 2014. The "Protect Health Care Freedom" act states that "constraints on health care freedom" are prohibited and that no one can be compelled to enroll in a public or private health-insurance plan. The bill would also also not "interfere with a person's right to pay directly for lawful health care services or medical treatment to preserve or enhance that person's life or health."
The bill would also prevent penalties for anyone not enrolling for health-care coverage. The bill, if adopted, would open up constitutional issues regarding states' rights versus federal authority.
While 27 states have joined a lawsuit opposing the national health care legislation, North Carolina has not. N.C. Rep. Jonathan Jordan (R-93) is signed on as a co-sponsor of the new bill.
As the bill proceeds through committee, the N.C. Justice Center issued a report saying national health care would protect 4 million people in the state at risk of losing coverage or not being able to afford coverage because of pre-existing conditions. According to U.S. Census data, Watauga County has the state's highest rate of uninsured people, at 32 percent.
Under the federal mandate, businesses with 50 or more employees will have to provide insurance to their employees beginning in 2014, with federal tax credits available to help underwrite the costs. Insurers will be barred from turning down people with pre-existing conditions and those who can afford a policy but don't have one will pay a fee to subsidize those without health care.
According to the N.C. Health Access Coalition, about 1.5 million state residents have a pre-existing condition that would trigger automatic denials by insurance companies.
Without the national provisions, health insurance premiums would increase 27 percent by 2019, the report says.