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Mandated Coverage Complaints Not Going Away

“It’s not a loss for the Republican Party – it’s a loss for the American people. But I intend to keep my promise to the people of Louisiana, to get rid of Obamacare,” U.S. Senator John Kennedy said, right after the so-called “skinny repeal” failed late last week. 

There’s been lots of post-game analysis since, including criticism of Louisiana’s other U.S. Senator, Bill Cassidy, for alleged promise-breaking with his votes. Yet Cassidy’s most consistent promise was: “To fulfill President Trump’s campaign pledges – eliminating mandates and lowering premiums.”

The health insurance mandate seems to be conservatives’ core complaint about the Affordable Care Act. It’s what prompted Republican Representative Paul Hollis to bring HB 6 in Louisiana’s legislature this past spring.

“That part that I find most challenging is being forced to buy a product,” Hollis said of his bill to permit Louisiana to opt out of the Obamacare mandate and prevent state residents from having to pay the federal penalties. “I think that’s unprecedented, and the part of the Affordable Care Act that I like the absolute least is having to pay a fine for non-compliance.”

Jeannie Donovan with the Louisiana Budget Project pointed out there is precedent for the insurance mandate.

“I understand that this part of that federal law is very unpopular,” Donovan told the House Insurance committee. “But we also have a mandate to buy car insurance if we drive a car.”

Louisiana has required drivers to have auto insurance coverage since 1996, or incur penalties of up to $1000 for failing to do so.

Republican Representative Kirk Talbot pointed out one of those is a state issue, and involves a privilege. The other is federal, and involves existence.

“States require whether we have car insurance or not,” Talbot said. “But we don’t say once you’re born you have to have car insurance. What Obamacare did for the first time was say just for being alive and being a citizen, you had to do something.”

The state bill to opt out of Obamacare mandates failed once it reached the Senate. On the federal level, though, Senator Kennedy says efforts will continue to replace Obamacare.

“We have to start over, but I can tell you I’m not gonna give up.”