On Wednesday, Idaho became the second in what promises to be a long list of states passing legislation that would “protect their citizens from being forced to purchase health insurance or participate in any health care system against their will,” according to a press release. The legislation, crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is an attempt to undermine any federal health care legislation by invoking the 10th Amendment and claiming that it prohibits the federal government from forcing states to implement the reform plan because the Constitution doesn’t say anything about health care. While all the rhetoric around such measures, which are pending in more than two-dozen other states, is about freedom from tyranny, state’s rights, etc., ALEC has a long history of serving as a front group for big corporations, particularly the tobacco industry. Legal experts don’t think the state legislation will hold up under court scrutiny, but the idea must be a tremendous fundraising tool for ALEC, which has long been able to gin up funding for unconstitutional and politically un-passable legislation to ban civil lawsuits against big corporations. No doubt it is awash in corporate health care money right now from companies duped into thinking this scheme might actually work.
The open question about this latest round of state-level protests against health care reform, though, is how the states plan to enforce their legislation. I attended a “Tenth Amendment Summit” in Atlanta a few weeks ago that was attended by a bunch of state legislators, candidates like Alabama’s Ten Commandments judge Roy Moore, and various tea party types all pledging to promote a return to 10th Amendment purity. Many, if not most of them believe that states have the power to ignore federal laws they deem unconstitutional, and to use their National Guard troops to enforce that decision if necessary. Which made me wonder: If Idaho, home of the Ruby Ridge debacle in the 1990s, can’t stop federal health care reform, is the state preparing to take up arms to protect their citizens’ “right” to remain sick and uninsured? I guess weirder things have happened. More likely? Once the health care bill passes, Idaho residents will be clamoring to take advantage of its benefits and the state will quickly repeal the law in order to cash in on all the potential budget savings.