Idaho braces for lawsuit over insurance mandate

Chris Rizo Mar. 19, 2010, 1:23pm

C.L. "Butch" Otter (R)

BOISE, Idaho (Legal Newsline)-The Idaho attorney general must file a lawsuit if the federal government acts in its proposed health care overhaul to require individuals to buy medical insurance, under a new state law.

Republican Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, a former three-term congressman, signed the bill Wednesday.

His signature came just days before the U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote Sunday on Democrats' proposed $940 billion retooling of the nation's health care system.

A controversial element of the plan would require all Americans to have medical insurance or face an annual penalty of $695. Meanwhile, employers could face penalties of $2,000 per worker for not offering affordable health coverage.

The provision provides subsidies to help low- and middle-income workers buy coverage. The plan also calls for new taxes on wealthy Americans and the nation's well-insured.

If signed by the president, the health care overhaul would mark the most significant expansion of medical care since Congress created Medicare in 1965 for the nation's elderly and disabled.

In a last minute push Friday for the overhaul plan, President Barack Obama issued a populist plea to Congress.

"In just a few days, a century-long struggle with culminate in a historic vote," Obama said at a campaign-style rally at George Mason University in Virginia.

The Idaho law is the Health Freedom Act. Otter said in a statement that the law is "a clear expression of state sovereignty."

Virginia has enacted a similar law, and a constitutional amendment on the November ballot in Arizona would grant the attorney general there the same power. Similar legislation is pending in dozens of other states.

=From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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