Governor McDonnell Signs Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act Legislation

Del. Christopher Peace presented with signing pen for his work to pass Virginia's legislation defending constitutional liberties and principles of federalism

CENTRAL VIRGINIA- Governor Bob McDonnell ceremonially signed into law the Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act in a mid-afternoon ceremony on March 24th in Richmond. McDonnell was joined at the bill signing by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Senators Steve Martin, Fred Quayle, and Jill Vogel and Delegates Bob Marshall and Christopher K. Peace (R-Hanover). Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Bill Hazel also attended the event.  The signing ceremony was held in the Governor's Cabinet conference room in the Patrick Henry Building on Capitol Square.

The Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act sets as the policy of the Commonwealth that no individual, with several specific exceptions, can be required to purchase health insurance coverage. The Act was passed with bipartisan support, in sharp contrast to the narrow straight line partisan vote that enacted the federal health care bill.

 In the press conference, Governor McDonnell emphasized the need to expand access to quality health care and reduce costs for all Virginians but stressed that an unprecedented federal mandate on individuals violates the U.S. Constitution. The Governor continued, "The states have long been leaders in identifying and implementing innovative policies to expand access to, and improve the affordability of, healthcare coverage. Virginia will continue to play that important role.  We will do this through promoting incentives for the purchase of long term care and individual medical savings accounts, focusing on preventative health and combating obesity, studying our medical delivery systems with the objective of reforming them to work better for our citizens, expanding free clinics and aggressively finding new ways to reduce the cost of our Medicaid system, which has already grown 1600% in the past 25 years. There are fiscally responsible ways by which we can reform healthcare and expand quality coverage that do not involve the forcing of unfunded and unprecedented mandates onto individuals and states, and the unsustainable growing of our national debt."

In terms of state-based health reform, Delegate Peace, as a member of the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee, initiated legislative efforts to allow for the interstate purchase of insurance known as the Health Choice Act, review existing mandated health benefits burdensome to business and costly to payers, improve access to allied health professions as a means to quality care at a lower cost, and streamline the bureaucratic process for appeals of coverage at large insurance companies. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli complimented Delegate Peace for his efforts. 

Delegate Peace stressed his support of the legislation and the recent lawsuit filed to challenge the constitutionality of the measure saying, "Congress' only duty is to serve citizens under the express powers of the US Constitution.  Forcing citizens to purchase health insurance violates a sacred social compact. The Virginia Assembly is seeking to reinforce the principle that the federal government is a creature of the states and not vice versa."

In the 2010 Virginia General Assembly Session Peace introduced House Bill 722 and co-patroned House Bill 10 commonly known as the Health Care Freedom Act. Peace's measure presented as a declaration of right that a resident of the Commonwealth shall not be required to obtain or maintain a policy of individual health insurance coverage. The provisions of this legislation would apply regardless of whether the person is eligible for health insurance coverage under any policy or program provided by or through his employer or a plan sponsored by the Commonwealth or the federal government. The measure also protected Virginians from any penalty, assessment, fee, or fine as a result of a failure to purchase or otherwise obtain health insurance coverage.  House Bill 722 was incorporated into House Bill 10 which passed the legislature in a broad, bi-partisan manner. In the Senate, the bill passed 23 - 17 and 80 - 17 in the House of Delegates on March 10th.

The bills signed ceremonially today by the Governor were SB283, SB311, SB417 and HB10. HB 10 will be amended to reflect the previously enacted changes to the Senate bills.

Delegate Christopher K. Peace was elected to his third term representing the 97th District of the Virginia House of Delegates. The District includes parts of Hanover, Caroline, King William, King and Queen, Henrico, Spotsylvania Counties and all of New Kent County.