Acton Institute Powerblog

Health Care Subsidiarity: Continued

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The escalating legal battle over the recent health care legislation has spilled out of the federal judiciary into state governments. An August 14 story from the New York Times reports:

Faced with the need to review insurance rates and enforce a panoply of new rights granted to consumers, states are scrambling to make sure they have the necessary legal authority to carry out the responsibilities being placed on them by President Obama’s health care law.

Insurance commissioners in about half the states say they do not have clear authority to enforce consumer protection standards that take effect next month.

Federal and state officials are searching for ways to plug the gap. Otherwise, they say, the ability of consumers to secure the benefits of the new law could vary widely, depending on where they live.

But Arizona, meanwhile, has adopted a course of action that comes rather close to employing some kind of state nullification:

Arizona said it was unlikely to pass legislation authorizing any state agency to enforce federal insurance standards, in view of its participation in a lawsuit challenging the federal law. Moreover, it said, Gov. Jan Brewer has “instituted an indefinite rule-making moratorium, so we have no plans to adopt rules related to enforcement” of the law.

Gov. Brewer, despite causing controversy on the national scene due to Arizona’s immigration law, nevertheless enjoys very promising poll numbers. In the likely event that she wins reelection, Arizona will most certainly become a key state worth watching in the states’ struggle against the federal government.

Chris Oppermann


  • gb

    Having just read the book “Nullification”, I’m all in favor of AZ or any state exercising this right. My only question is, if every state did this, how long would our country last?

  • Erwin Rysz

    The current healthcare disaster – like much of healthcare legislation since the 60’s – has violated, in not gone beyond the Christian/Catholic teaching of Subsidiarity.
    The single/smallest units of society (the self and the family) are now powerless and pawns of state.

    The current confusion comes from both ends and means….
    To see real clarity in this discussion one has to see where so much of this originated. there is a model already in place
    which sets the standard for how this will operate and who will be the winners and losers will be.

    that model is public education.


    50 years ago competition forced the public schools to be accountable and responsible. there was no Federal support for education – no Title 1, or Title 9 which caused across the board failure and across the board expenses. Local maintenence and management were the key – that and an understanding that individuals still had a right to choose.
    The small property taxes of the time (property taxes the were used to “maintain and support” school systems – when
    infrstucture had to be built it was planned and built by a consortium of individual contributions, fundraising and community workings – today such construction is tax, tax and tax.)

    Which ultimately falls into the endgame of a “zero-sum” solution. When taxes get high enough, people will not even consider school choice – there is only the choice of public education. Note just how expensive public education is – in Pa. it costs $14,000 to educate a child in the public NJ it is over $20,000.

    Which is the real reason the left wants a single payer option. the single payer option is just what public education is. In both cases it is intended to be a bottomless pit which is the mechanism for forcing private insurance and healthcare out of the equation – just like the closing of the thousands of private schools.

  • gb, I understand your sentiment and concern–and it is valid.

    But I am also forced to ask…if things continue at the federal level as they are, how long will our country last?

    Extremes on either end, federalism or states rights, are equally lethal to a republic that daily lives with various pluralities.

  • Roger McKinney

    I don’t know that nullification would destroy the country. It probably would merely roll back some of the stolen power to that similar to the period just before WWII. The history of the country is one of the feds increasing their power at the expense of the states. The civil war was largely about states rights and states rights lost. The feds could lose 90% of their power and still be more powerful than in the early days of the country.