Kansas is close to approving a law designed to block a mandate in last year's federal health care overhaul, the Affordable Care Act requiring most Americans to buy health insurance.
A proposed "health care freedom" law was on Gov. Sam Brownback's desk. Legislators bundled the measure with other proposed changes in regulations for health care providers and approved the package in the last hours of their annual session. Brownback is expected sign the legislation into law soon.
The "freedom" measure says residents have the right to refuse to buy health insurance and instead pay for health care services directly, according to Annuity News. The law further stipulates that individuals cannot be fined or forced to pay other penalties for refusing to buy health insurance. The federal mandate taking effect in 2014 includes tax penalties for most Americans if they don't buy insurance.
Measures aimed at blocking the federal health insurance mandate have been approved in more than a dozen states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Privately, some Kansas legislators had questioned whether the law would have any practical effect. They said the federal law, if upheld by the courts, would take precedent over any state policy and render them null and void.
Brownback, who served 14 years in the U.S. Senate before becoming governor in January, has been a strong critic of the federal health care overhaul, and he supports the "freedom" measure, so he is wdiely expected to sign the bill into law.
Kansas is among more than two dozen states challenging the health care overhaul in a lawsuit filed in Florida. A federal judge struck down the entire law; President Barack Obama's administration has appealed, and both sides expect the U.S. Supreme Court to ultimately decide the issue.
Nine other states have adopted similar laws, with Virginia as the first, according to NCSL. Arizona and Oklahoma voters amended their states' constitutions to add such provisions, and Utah passed a law that says federal health reforms can't be implemented in that state without the legislative involvement. Montana and Wyoming voters will consider ballot questions next year on the issue.