Obamacare and the States, What Now?

“This bill is not being debated openly and fairly. It will raise taxes, hurt Medicare, destroy jobs, and run our nation deeper into debt. It is not in the interest of our state or country – we can do better.”Senator-Elect Scott Brown in his acceptance speech

As the Tea Parties of August were winding down, some Georgia legislators began talking about what they could do if Obamacare passes.  Sen. Chip Rogers, Majority Leader of the State Senate and Sen. Judson Hill joined together with other like minded legislators to take a look at the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution. “It seems only right that the place we start to determine what the role of government, if any, in health care is with the Constitution,” Sen. Rogers said in an appearance on the Fox News Channel on Labor Day.

Sen. Rogers and Hill have been passionate about this issue for months.  “We actually think we should not wait (to find out what the bill says). We must preserve the rights of all Georgians to choose their doctor and their payment method,” Rogers said. For them, this is about the role of government.

Sen. Hill also has a long record on making health care better for Georgians through legislation but more importantly by using the bully pulpit to make Georgians aware of what they can do to make their health better.  Rogers and Hill will be introducing a constitutional amendment protecting Georgians from the excesses of Obamacare and if passed in the legislature this session will be voted on by the people in November.

Sen. Hill and Rogers sent a letter to Attorney General Thurbert Baker asking him to join 13 other Attorneys General in seeing if the federal legislation is Constitutional.  AG Baker is also a Democrat candidate for Governor in 2010. State Rep. Jeff May also contacted him on getting involved in the transparency of the health care debate.  

As of this writing, the Attorney General’s office has not replied or commented on either of these issues. From a political standpoint, Baker is a Democrat who gets a great deal of Republican support.  He’s been elected statewide consistently as a Democrat as the state has become more and more Republican. If he makes it through the Democrat primary and hopes to beat the Republican challenger in November,he needs to keep some of that Republican support.

A second front has opened up on health care reform regarding transparency.  State Rep. Jeff May introduced a resolution calling on Congress to broadcast the final negotiations of healthcare reform on C-Span.  This resolution will go through the hearing process with a star studded panel led by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. While we’ve had secret closed-door meetings for weeks, with the “Game Change” in the Senate, we might be able to hit the reset button.  The issue here is the costs involved.  In states around the country, including Georgia, adding hundreds of millions of dollars a year in additional unfunded mandates from Medicaid at a time when we are cutting budgets every month will not work.  As Scott Brown said, “We can do better.”

Response from the Center for Health Transformation was swift, “This is a gutsy move on the part of the Georgia House,” said Gingrich. “Too many states are going to be devastated by the actions of Congress and this healthcare proposal. They have a right to know what is going on behind closed doors.”

“With Georgia facing a mandate that could bankrupt its state budget, it has every right to demand that Congress broadcast healthcare negotiations on television,” said Nancy Desmond, President and CEO of the Center for Health Transformation. “Not only does every American care about healthcare reform but so do those who keep state check books.”
Craig Schneider and Bob Keefe of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution took a look at the cost projections for the various versions of the bill and found wild differences in the numbers.  They said, “It is unclear why these numbers differ from the state’s estimates.”  Maybe it’s because all the negotiations are behind closed doors and no one, even Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi know what it is going to cost. The secrecy is killing the bill, but the disease is the arrogance of the majority which may be cured by the election of Scott Brown.

Georgia isn’t the only state that is fighting this using state legislation and resolutions but they are taking the strongest positions and are having the most public debate. No doubt Democrat candidates for Governor in Georgia are watching this closely. They feel they have an “in” due to ethics issues leading up to this legislative session and they are looking for every break they can get.  We’ll follow Sen. Rogers, Sen. Hill and Rep. May and I’ll be wishing them well.