Progressive Voices

A bill ripe for gubernatorial veto

The bill that attempts to exempt North Carolina from federal health reform is now on the governor’s desk. It recently received a brief hearing in the Senate and passed easily on a party-line vote. But, the bill did not make it through the House with enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto. That means Gov. Bev Perdue could still squash this silly bill.

There are probably political reasons to veto this grandstanding legislation. But there are other substantive justifications for sending it to the scrap heap. Here are the top five reasons Perdue should exercise her veto power:

It is bad policy – The responsibility to purchase insurance for those who can afford a plan is important. Remember, national health reform does not require that everyone purchase an insurance policy. The requirement only applies to those who can find a plan that costs less than 8 percent of household income.

This requirement will make premiums less expensive. Congressional Budget Office estimates say that killing the individual mandate would cause premiums to increase by as much as 20 percent. The responsibility requirement also makes it possible to ban insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Moreover, the bill has no practical impact on the federal legislation. The state can’t exempt itself from federal law. But it could have unintended consequences for the state.

Cost – This legislation will cost the state money. It forces the Attorney General to defend anyone who raises an objection to the federal law. That will require time from state attorneys who should be working on more important issues. Spiking this bill will save money.

It allows Republicans to make wild, inaccurate claims about reform – It has been a misinformation fest down at the General Assembly as Republicans attribute everything bad on earth to reform. GOP lawmakers claim that health reform does nothing to promote prevention when it is the largest single investment in prevention ever made by a single piece of legislation. They claim that small businesses will be forced to offer health coverage when small businesses are exempt from the requirement to purchase insurance. Perdue knows better and should not allow these assertions to go unchallenged.

It forces a showdown with the Attorney General. The legislation requires that Attorney General Roy Cooper file a frivolous lawsuit against the individual mandate and it creates a private right of action so that anyone in North Carolina would have standing to bring a lawsuit challenging the requirement to purchase insurance. The bill says that Cooper’s office must defend anyone who feels aggrieved by health reform. This is going to create a strange situation where legislators are insisting that Cooper, who is independently elected, do their bidding against his best judgment. Perdue should use her pen to avoid this fight.

We need to fight for people locked out of the health care system. Natalie Hough, an 18-year-old from Hillsborough, N.C., nearly died when she collapsed at her high school from a genetic heart condition. Her parents are small business owners and were concerned that once their daughter recovered she would never be able to obtain insurance coverage. National reform allowed Natalie to remain on her mother’s policy. And starting in 2014 insurance companies will be banned from denying coverage or charging higher premiums to Natalie based on her genetic condition.

We need to strengthen protections for people like Natalie Hough, not weaken them. Republican efforts to scuttle reform would chain us to our current system where too many people are denied insurance coverage based on medical history.

Perdue might argue that she doesn’t want to veto every piece of legislation coming from the Republican majority in the legislature. That makes sense. It is important that lawmakers find bi-partisan agreement on bills that improve North Carolina. But this bill is particularly egregious, has nothing to do with creating jobs in the state, and may well have serious consequences that lawmakers do not foresee.

Adam Linker is a Policy Analyst at the North Carolina Health Access Coalition.

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