As South Carolina lawmakers work through their calendar during the final week of the regular session, one of the bills the Senate could decide is whether to nullify the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Some Republicans in the state Senate don't want the federal law to be put in place in the state. Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, says, “I'm sure this nullification would probably wind us up in the federal courts, but I believe it's well worth the fight, well worth doing this to see if we can escape from this encroachment of freedom that's been heaped on us by the federal government.”
He thinks it's unconstitutional for the federal government to require people to buy health insurance, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that it is constitutional. “I believe the Supreme Court was wrong in their ruling,” he says. “This is an attempt, as many other states are considering, a stand to the federal government and just say 'No, you're not going to do this. We're willing to fight you over it.'”
He doesn't know how much a court battle might cost taxpayers, but says it would be worth it.
Jacqueline Fox, a professor at the University of South Carolina's School of Law and an expert on health care law, says the state has no chance of winning a court fight over the Affordable Care Act. “You can have all your theories that you want and people can hold them quite dearly, but in our system the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of what's constitutional or not, and they've already said that this is.”
Besides saying that the Affordable Care Act will not be enforced in the state, the bill would allow the state's attorney general to prosecute any person or business that he “has reasonable cause to believe” is harming any person or business by implementing the Affordable Care Act.
The federal law includes tax penalties for people and businesses that refuse to buy health insurance. Under the state bill, anyone facing those fines could get a state tax credit to offset them.
Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Columbia, and other Democrats in the Senate will fight the nullification effort. He says if the bill becomes law, “We will spend thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to defend something that we know we are going to lose.”