Louisiana

This article is part of the State Status and News series related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The Louisiana House went on record Thursday as opposed to the federal health care overhaul.

With a 60-15 vote, lawmakers approved a bill that attempts to nullify the congressional health legislation in Louisiana, by declaring that no one in the state can be required to have health insurance or be required to pay a penalty if they refuse to carry insurance.

“Congress does not have the right to mandate an individual to enter into a contract with a private company. It's not about whether we like Obama-care or federal health care or we don't,” said Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge.

The measure, backed by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, heads next to the Senate. Dozens of other states are considering similar legislation.

Before the measure was approved, Rep. Fred Mills amended it to include language that bars anyone who opts out from the insurance coverage provided under the federal health care overhaul from getting free health care from the state.

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The bill was a tricky vote for white Democrats who were elected in moderate districts that are trending more conservative with each election cycle. And the sensitivity of the issue was clear in the final vote tally.

A handful of Democrats voted with the Republicans to pass the bill. The opponents were nearly all Democrats. Several Democrats who had been around for earlier votes Thursday disappeared before the final vote, including at least two who spoke against the bill.

Under the language added by Mills, anyone who refuses the insurance coverage would have to repay the state for the costs of uninsured hospital care, and the state would be authorized to use “any legal means necessary” to recoup the costs.

“Take their house, take everything, take the clothes off them if they don't want to get insurance,” said Mills, D-Parks, who voted for the bill after his amendment was tacked onto it.

The Mills amendment also would prohibit the state's uninsured care funds from paying for the medical bills of anyone who doesn't get health insurance after the congressional health legislation takes effect. If enacted, that provision could strip away millions of federal dollars that currently pay for the state's charity hospitals.

Deslatte, Melinda. “House backs bill to opt out of health overhaul”. (Louisiana) Daily Comet. May 13, 2010. Available online as of 2010-05-13.