Arguing that it upsets the separation of powers set up in the state constitution, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a proposal that would have directed her to enter into a compact with another state to ensure residents aren’t coerced into buying health insurance.
The legislation is one of several measures that sought to defy the health care overhaul that Congress passed last year. One controversial provision of the federal law mandates individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.
In her veto of SB1088, Brewer said she shares concerns about the federal government’s encroachment into states’ authority over health care administration and into citizens’ health care decisions.
And while the idea of using interstate compacts to circumvent federal regulation is novel, the governor said she’s not convinced it’s the best route to challenge the federal law.
“I continue to believe the multistate lawsuit is the best and most appropriate route to invalidate the requirements of federal health care reform legislation,” Brewer wrote in her veto letter.
The governor also vetoed legislation that supporters said would have expanded residents’ options when it comes to buying health care insurance.
That bill, SB1593, would have allowed out-of-state companies to sell insurance to Arizona residents. Under the legislation, an out-of-state insurer could offer an insurance policy that contains less than what’s required under state law. Those companies, however, must meet the benefits requirements of their home states.
But the governor said Arizona alone should determine the health coverage requirements that are best for its residents.
That’s why she’s balked at the federal health care overhaul and its mandates, she said, adding that’s also why she has taken a similar approach when it comes to moves to open up the state’s insurance market to outside companies.
The Arizona Legislature, Brewer said, has carefully weighed the minimum health benefits package that should be offered to residents.
“SB1593 includes a provision that would, under certain conditions, change Arizona’s benefit requirements based on legislative decisions in other states,” Brewer wrote. “I am also concerned about risks to our citizens who may be subject to other states’ regulatory procedures that could leave them with little recourse in the event of mistreatment.”
Some backers of the two measures were puzzled by the governor’s veto, saying they thought they hewed closely to the governor’s stated positions on resisting federal intrusion, fighting for states’ rights and expanding individual freedoms.
Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, author of SB1593, rejected any notion that her measure would expose residents to risks, adding that out-of-state insurers would have been subject to state’s insurance laws and the protections they provide.
Barto blamed the veto on “misconceptions” communicated to the governor.
“It would have allowed more options for Arizonans, and I think they would have appreciated having many more opportunities to purchase insurance that would best fit their needs,” Barto said.
The two bills’ critics commended the governor for rejecting them.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said under SB1593 residents could unwittingly buy an out-of-state insurance that does not include coverage they assumed is included in the policy.
The state, for example, mandates coverage for autism spectrum disorders. But another state’s insurance might not.
“A family could unwittingly purchase insurance thinking they were getting coverage for autism and not get it,” she said, adding, “When you purchase a product, you assumed that it’ll follow the standards of the state.”
Sinema surmised that since the governor is not facing a reelection campaign, she is freer to act based on what she believes.