S.C. bill would make Affordable Care Act implementation a felony
COLUMBIA - The implementation of the Affordable Care Act would be a felony under a bill introduced by a Republican state representative.
The measure is not expected to have legs in the upcoming legislative session.
State Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, blasted the bill as "divisive" and "disrespectful."
Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Woodruff, said Tuesday that the federal government's passage of the 2010 health care law forced his hand.
"I'm not happy about doing it," he said of filing his bill, which has drawn national media attention. "I took an oath to defend the people of South Carolina and the Constitution, and I feel like what they are doing is unconstitutional."
Chumley, elected to a second term this year, also questioned whether the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision last summer to uphold the health care law is the final word on the matter.
"I don't know that that settles it," he said.
Chumley's bill, titled the "South Carolina Freedom of Health Care Protection Act," asks the Legislature to declare the federal law unconstitutional on the grounds that it interferes with the state's right to regulate health care.
The bill also argues that the health care law exceeds the powers delegated to the federal government.
The legislation would make it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000, or both for an official or private employee to implement or attempt to enforce the law.
Chumley said the punishment is "not the issue" with his bill and is subject to change.
"But you have to have a penalty," he added.
A similar bill has been filed by state Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, but Bright's measure would make implementation of the health law a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison, an up to $1,000 fine or both.
Chumley said a committee of doctors, political scientists and others met in Spartanburg to offer suggestions on how to combat the health law before his bill was introduced.
"I had some of my constituents even before the election that came to me upset about that thing and what they had read about it," Chumley said. "They wanted me to see what I could I do as far as our options were."
Chumley's measure has been referred to a House committee.
Sellers said Chumley is "just trying for the headline."
"We live in a land where we have to respect the courts, where we have to have some decency and respect," he said.
Parts of the Affordable Care Act already are in effect in South Carolina.
But Gov. Nikki Haley has rejected implementation of a state-run health exchange, a key aspect of the law, leaving the federal government to run an exchange in the state.
Haley also opposes an expansion of Medicaid under the law, but the Legislature ultimately will make that decision. The Supreme Court ruling made expansion of Medicaid optional for states.
A spokesman for Haley did not immediately respond Tuesday to a question asking whether the governor supports Chumley's measure.