(CNSNews.com) - Voters in Arizona will decide next year whether residents will be subject to mandates in the pending health care reform that President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are promoting.
At least five other states – Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming – have considered proposals to take pre-emptive action against the pending federal mandates, but those proposals have either not made it out of committee, failed to get enough votes from one side of the legislature, or are still being crafted.
Only the Arizona Legislature introduced an initiative (HCR2014), which if passed, would amend the state constitution to codify that no resident would be required to participate in any public health care option. Arizonans will vote on the initiative in November 2010.
“HCR2014 is proactive and will protect patients’ fundamental rights,” Arizona State Rep. Nancy Barto, a Republican, said in a statement. “We are a front-line battle state to stop the momentum of this powerful government takeover of your health care decisions. Health care by lobbyists thwarts your rights and can be stopped here.”
The main issue is the core of the Obama health plan – a government run or “public option” – to compete with private health insurers. Some state lawmakers fear such legislation would force residents to buy into the public plan.
“The eyes of the nation will be on Arizona next year to see what happens,” Christie Herrera, director of the Health and Human Services Taskforce with the American Legislative Exchange Council, told CNSNews.com. “If this succeeds in Arizona, other states will take notice and push harder.”
The Obama administration insists that the public option will provide another choice for Americans who are not insured or are unhappy with their current insurance and will force private companies to be more competitive.
Critics of the plan say private firms could not compete with a public option – with unlimited government resources – and thus would go out of business, leaving what is tantamount to a single-payer system in place.
What happens in Arizona could spur other states to pass similar laws or constitutional amendments, said Wisconsin State Rep. Lea Vukmir, a Republican, who sponsored similar legislation in 2008 that passed the House but failed in the Senate.
If the Obama administration’s “public option” becomes law before Arizonans vote in November 2010, their initiative would still allow the state the challenge the Obama plan.
Vukmir said that the Obama proposal could be unconstitutional, under the Tenth Amendment, which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
“I’m a strong believer in the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment,” Vukmir told CNSNews.com. “The Tenth Amendment has been eroded by Congress and the Supreme Court for decades. We have to ask, does the Tenth Amendment have any meaning? We are supposed to have strong state governments and a weak central government. That has eroded away.”
Georgia State Sen. Judson Hill, a Republican, said that the Obama plan would put a big strain on state budgets and told CNSNews.com that he would be interested in introducing similar legislation in the Georgia state house.
Medicaid and S-CHIP payments to states already make cutting costs untenable for states in lieu of a benefit cut or tax hike, Hill said.
He has introduced legislation to use state medical grants to go directly to patients as a sort of medical scholarship. (S-CHIP is the acronym for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, run by the federal Health and Human Services, which provides matching funds to states that provide expanded health insurance programs for families with children in low- to moderate-income brackets.)
“I call them federal crack dollars,” said Hill. “States get addicted to health dollars sent by the U.S. government.”
Arizona’s Health Care Freedom Act, firstly, establishes the right of state residents to spend their own money to seek and receive health care and, secondly, the right to choose not to participate in any health care system of any type.
An advocacy group was started to campaign for the amendment.
“Protecting the rights of individuals to be in control of their health and health care must be a fundamental component of health care reform, so the Arizona legislature is to be congratulated for giving all Americans the opportunity to make certain our voices are heard,” said Dr. Eric Novack, chairman of the group Arizonans for Health Care Reform.