Gov. Douglas: ‘I Don’t Support The Mandate’ in Health Care Bill That Individuals Must Buy Health Insurance

By Nicholas Ballasy | March 19, 2010 | 2:22 PM EDT

Gov. Jim Douglas (R-Vt.)

( - Gov. Jim Douglas (R-Vt.), chairman of the National Governors Association, told that citizens of his state should not be required by the federal government to purchase health insurance, as the Senate health care bill that is expected to be passed by Congress on Mar. 21 mandates.
“Personally, I don’t support the mandate,” said Douglas. “We’ve been able to expand coverage in Vermont without one. We have about the second-lowest uninsured rate in America. We’re doing it in a sustainable way with carrots instead of sticks, and I think that works. So, that’s one element of reform I personally don’t support.”
Governor Douglas spoke with at the Mar. 15 National Governors Association Conference in Washington, D.C.

“It sounds like there’s a lot of support for it,” said Douglas in reference to the health insurance mandate. “I understand from an actuarial standpoint why it’s important to get more people insured and into the pool. But we’ve been able to do it with incentives, with subsidies for people of modest means, without the requirement (to buy insurance).”
“Whether it’s constitutional, I suspect will be litigated,” he said. “About 38 states are planning to consider legislation challenging it. So I bet, ultimately, a court will decide.”
Governor Douglas moderated the “Enacting Reforms With or Without Federal Legislation” panel along with Gov. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) at the conference. Douglas said his state would see higher costs if the health care bill becomes law.
He said: “I do, mostly because of what’s called the ‘Woodwork effect,’ the assumption is that with a mandate people will come out of the woodwork and sign up for Medicaid when they haven’t before.”
“Of the seven-and-a-half percent of our residents who are not insured, most of them are Medicaid eligible but just haven’t signed up,” said Douglas. “So we expect more will come into that program. We’ll be required to pay a portion of that cost and so I think our costs will rise, if the bill passes.”
The governor also said one national health care program would not “fit” all states.
“It’s hard to opt-out of a national program, I suppose, but what I would like to see and I think all governors would, is flexibility,” said Douglas. “One size doesn’t fit all. States in America are very different – different economically, they’re different demographically.”
“We are at different points along the road to health care reform, so I’d like to see flexibility to do it our way, to do what we think is in the best interest of our residents,” he said. “If we get that flexibility, I think we’ll all feel a lot better about what ultimately passes, and be able to implement it successfully.”