| Virginia Democrats in the State Senate are about to pass as early as tomorrow on a bill banning an individual mandate from taking effect in Virginia. This move is little more than symbolic, as a federal mandate would override state petulance, but State Senators Chuck Colgan and Phil Pickett, at left, gave SB417 the two Democratic votes it needed to pass out of the committee, and therefore the two Democratic votes it needs to pass the 22-18 Senate.
With health care reform barely alive as it is, this rather premature bill exists solely to score political points. Naturally, the bill completely sidesteps the public option question, and only tackles the individual mandate. Here's where it gets complicated.
An individual mandate is a key component of health care reform, for numerous reasons (it spreads risk and lowers overall health care costs). However, with President Obama and useless Democrats in the federal Senate abandoning the public option, an individual mandate becomes a mandate to buy private insurance. For conservatives, who were against both the individual mandate and public option to begin with, they can force Democrats to support a private mandate or kill the bill entirely.
I don't expect any members of the State Senate to vote for a symbolic rebuke of the individual mandate as a cry to bring the public option back. Score one for the Republicans.
State Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel, sponsor of the Virginia bill, smelled blood in the water, and crafted a bill to force Senate Democrats into voting on the private mandate question. It would be unconscionable for liberals to support a mandate to buy private insurance, but it would be ineffective to pass any sort of reform without a mandate at all.
It will be interesting to see which State Senate Democrats buckle and vote for a symbolic ban on an individual mandate. Spinelessness begets spinelessness. Stand and deliver, Senators, both federal and state. We'll be waiting.