Va. assembly approves bill to bar health-insurance mandate

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 11, 2010; B04

RICHMOND -- The Virginia General Assembly has given final approval to a bill that would make it illegal for the government to require individuals to purchase health insurance, a measure intended to conflict with Democratic efforts to reform health care in Washington.

Thirty-four other states are weighing similar legislation to block the individual mandate, which is an element of bills that have passed both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. But Virginia is the first state to complete legislative action on such a bill.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell said Wednesday that he intends to sign the legislation.

The measure had been virtually assured passage since five Democrats crossed party lines last month in the state Senate, which their party controls, and supported the proposal.

Proponents of the measure said the federal government should not force private citizens to enter into private contracts for insurance. The legislation, they said, was a way to send a message to Washington.

Opponents said an individual mandate is an important way to bring young and healthy people into the insurance pool and lessen costs. They said that requiring health insurance would be similar to requiring a driver to have auto insurance, and that federal legislation would preempt a state law.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company