One day after a federal judge in Florida declared the federal health care overhaul unconstitutional because of its requirement that everyone buy health insurance, Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio offered a solution to the dilemma.
“If you don’t want to buy health insurance, you (should) have to sign a waiver,” he said during a visit Tuesday with the Gazette-Times editorial board.
“It doesn’t make any difference to me if you want to go without health insurance, as long as I don’t have to pay for it.”
Much of the popular opposition to the Obama administration’s health care reform legislation focused on the insurance mandate, which many Republicans called unwarranted government intrusion into a private decision.
Democrats countered that requiring insurance coverage was necessary to eliminate the problem of unreimbursed care for uninsured patients who get free treatment at emergency rooms, shifting the burden of payment to everyone else. DeFazio estimates that cost-shifting amounts to an extra $1,400 a year in higher insurance premiums for Oregon families.
DeFazio plans to introduce legislation that would allow people to opt out of the insurance mandate, but only if they sign a document waiving their right to government health coverage (such as Medicaid) and their right to discharge health care debts through bankruptcy.
The 4th District Democrat said he plans to introduce the bill, dubbed the Personal Responsibility in Health Care Insurance Act, in the next few weeks.
In a letter to fellow members of Congress, DeFazio cast the issue as a reasonable compromise in the continuing debate over health care reform.
“I believe buying insurance should be a choice, not a matter of federal coercion,” he wrote. “But with that choice comes responsibility.”
Republicans made big gains in the last congressional election, with many vowing to overturn the Obama health care law. On Jan. 19, the GOP-dominated House voted to repeal the measure, even though there was little hope of getting a similar bill through the Senate.
In his visit with the Gazette-Times on Tuesday, DeFazio said he hoped the congressional session wouldn’t bog down over the issue.
“I think if (Republicans) spend all their time on health care, their base may like it, but it won’t go over very well with the broader electorate.”
Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.