Nineteen States Move to Defend Individual Health Care Choice

By Susan Jones, Senior Editor
October 27, 2009

( – Regardless of what the U.S. Congress decides about health care reform, a growing number of states are standing up for individuals’ freedom of choice when it comes to purchasing – or not purchasing – health insurance.

Several Kansas Republicans have introduced a state constitutional amendment that would protect the right of Kansas residents to make their own health care choices. That makes Kansas the 19th state where legislators have introduced, or will introduce, such legislation.

The proposed Kansas amendment preserves the right of individuals to pay directly for medical care — something that is not allowed in single-payer countries such as Canada. It also prohibits any individual from being penalized for not purchasing government-defined insurance.

Under the amendment, any state attempt to require an individual to purchase health insurance–or forbid an individual from purchasing services outside of the government-established health care system–would be rendered unconstitutional.

The legislation is modeled after a bill written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a membership association of state lawmakers.

“Federal health care reform efforts may include a requirement that individuals purchase health insurance, and a so-called ‘public option’ which will result in less choices for consumers and new government mandates,” said Iowa State Rep. Linda Upmeyer, who chairs ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force.

“Americans don’t need more government mandates, we need real consumer choice. ALEC’s Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act is designed to protect individual rights and our freedom to purchase health insurance of our choice, or not,” she added.

Kansas now joins legislators in seven states (Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Utah) that have publicly announced their intention to file legislation to protect their citizens from any government health-care mandates.

Another 11 states have already filed or pre-filed similar legislation (Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, New Mexico, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wyoming). Arizona’s measure, which passed the legislature in June, will be put before voters on the 2010 ballot.

Democrats in the U.S. Congress are now finalizing legislation that will make major changes to the nation’s health care system, and they are doing so without Republican input.

Republicans say they’re all for health-care reform, as long as it’s the result of true bipartisanship. Republicans say their ideas – including medical liability reform, tax credits to help individuals buy private insurance, and allowing families and businesses buy insurance across state lines – are a better approach than adding a huge new government-sponsored insurance plan into the mix.

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