Uninsured in Virginia

The Bristol Herald Courier reported today that Virginia U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson will rule by the end of the year on the constitutionality of the new health care reform law. The suit was brought by Virginia State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, using Virginia taxpayer money. It alleges that the HCR provision requiring individuals to purchase health insurance is not a proper exercise of the government’s authority.

In the motor vehicle code in Virginia, there is a provision that corresponds to the HCR requirement to purchase. Virginia requires people who register a vehicle to have insurance or pay an uninsured motorist fee to help pay for damage done by people without insurance. This is the same motivation for the requirement to purchase that is included in HCR, since everyone at some time needs medical care, and forcing the cost of your care on other people while keeping your money in your pocket is just not nice.

If Virginia’s objection to requirement to purchase is upheld, then in order to have health care in the United States, we will have to fund it with tax dollars. The suit recognizes that the federal government has the power to levy taxes. It follows that if health care reform had come to us with a tax-payer funded public option or with single payer, apparently there would have been no objection from Virginia. However, those of us with good notes or sufficient memory of the last couple of years know that Republicans wanted people to purchase insurance from private insurers.

For reference, here from the Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles is information on the Uninsured Motorist Fee. Note that it does not raise revenue for the state to use. It sustains a fund that is paid out to insurers, but the citizen who pays the money has no protection. This fee serves the same purpose as the HCR requirement to purchase, but carries no benefit for citizen who pays:

Uninsured Motor Vehicle Fee — information for citizens:

The Virginia Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee allows a motor vehicle owner to register an uninsured motor vehicle. At the time of registration, the motor vehicle owner must certify whether the vehicle is insured or uninsured.

If the vehicle is uninsured, the motor vehicle owner is required to pay to DMV a $500 uninsured motor vehicle fee in addition to normal registration fees. Payment of the $500 fee does not provide the motorist with any insurance coverage. If involved in an accident, the uninsured motorist remains personally liable. This fee is valid for twelve months but may be prorated for a shorter amount of time.

Motor vehicle owners who falsely certify that they have insurance and are found by DMV to be uninsured face stiff penalties. In addition to facing suspension of all driver and registration privileges, compliance includes payment of a $500 statutory fee, a $85 reinstatement fee and filing proof of insurance for three years. During the three-year period, insurance companies cooperate with DMV by providing notification if a policy is canceled. This requirement to maintain proof of insurance enables DMV to ensure that these motor vehicle owners maintain liability insurance on their registered vehicles.

This information is posted on the same website for insurers, and describes how the money is held and dispersed:

Uninsured Motor Vehicle Fee — information for insurers:

Every person registering an uninsured motor vehicle shall pay a fee of $500 at the time of registration. Payment of this fee allows a motor vehicle owner to operate an uninsured motor vehicle. Payment of this fee does not provide the motorist with any insurance coverage. If involved in an accident, the uninsured motorist remains personally liable. The fee is valid for twelve months but may be prorated for the unexpired portion of the registration period.

Uninsured Motorists Fund
As provided for by Motor Vehicle Code 46.2-710, all revenue collected by DMV as a result of registering an uninsured vehicle is paid into the state treasury and held in a special fund known as the Uninsured Motorists Fund. The purpose of the Fund is to reduce the cost of uninsured motorist insurance coverage. Moneys are distributed annually from the Fund among the insurers writing motor vehicle bodily injury and property damage liability insurance on vehicles registered in Virginia. Moneys are distributed in proportion that each insurer’s premium income for the basic uninsured motorists limits coverage bears to the total premium income for basic uninsured motorists coverage written in Virginia during the preceding year.

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