States that have introduced and/or approved legislation to join the federal health care compact.
Photo: HealthCareCompact.org
Photo: HealthCareCompact.org

Ohio considers legislation to control its health care

Ohio is one of 21 states that have introduced legislation to control its health care, which includes controlling federal dollars and changes that could affect health care in the state.

Legislation would allow states to join a federally created health care compact that would transfer the authority and responsibility to make health care decisions from federal control to the member states. So far, only North Dakota has failed to pass legislation through its statehouse to join, and three states — Arizona, Minnesota and Montana — have had their governors veto legislation. There are eight states with legislation approved by their governors, and Ohio is one of eight states with legislation still pending.

Republican Reps. Terry Boose, of Norwalk, and Wes Retherford, of Hamilton, introduced House Bill 227 this past June, which would allow Ohio to be a member of the health care compact. The bill passed out of the State and Local Government Committee on April 2 by way of a 10-8 vote. The vote was down party lines, though Republican Bob Hackett, of London, voted with the Democrats. Committee member Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, said this bill is not right for Ohio.

“The proposal is so extreme and has such a negative impact on the health of our citizens that even Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed (a similar bill),” said Lundy. Arizona’s state legislature passed its version of the health care compact bill in 2011, but it was vetoed by the controversial governor who became criticized in the national media for signing Arizona Senate Bill 1070, known as the “show me your papers” law. The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2012 struck down key provisions of SB 1070 but upheld a provision that allows police to check a person’s immigration status in certain circumstances.

The governors in Montana and Minnesota exercised pocket vetoes by never signing the bills that passed each of their respective state’s legislatures.

Meredith Tucker, Ohio Democratic Party communications director, called the bill a “partisan stunt.”

“It’s sad that Ohio Republicans continue these partisan stunts when there are so many important issues facing struggling Ohio families,” she said.

U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, introduced House Joint Resolution 110 in February and has garnered support from 11 Republican congressmen, including Urbana Rep. Jim Jordan, who have signed on as co-sponsors. The Oklahoma Republican said this resolution is “a breakthrough governance reform that allows states to clean up the health care mess created by the federal government.”

“Those member states are then free to implement their own health care systems without interference from federal bureaucrats, using federal health care funds already collected and spent in their state,” Lankford said.

Because of their displeasure with the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, Retherford said he and several Ohio legislators felt it necessary to work to join the health care compact efforts. And besides that, he said health care is “an issue that should be taken care at the state level.”

“Washington, D.C., often has a one-size-fits-all approach but what works for California often doesn’t work for Ohio,” said Retherford.

Ohio’s bill is likely to be presented for a vote after the May 6 primary election, Retherford said.

On average, more than 96 percent of health care is provided and consumed within a state by residents of that state, according to a press release from Lankford’s office.

“With $2.3 trillion spent annually and almost 3,000 pages of regulations for Medicare and Medicaid, federal management of our complex health care system has proved to be incompetent, inflexible and incomprehensible to the average American,” Lankford said. “States already manage Medicaid, but they are burdened with thousands of pages of federal regulation, which makes the system inefficient and impersonal.”

If House Joint Resolution 110 is approved, the Ohio General Assembly would then have to enact the change.

As the House Republicans continue efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the health care compact resolution could be part of the efforts.

“The president’s health care law continues to wreak havoc on families, local small businesses and our economy,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner. “The truth is you can’t fix this law — it needs to be torn out by its roots. Republican leadership will continue our work to replace this fundamentally flawed law with patient-centered solutions focused on lowering health care costs and protecting jobs.”

Texas-based Competitive Governance Action, a 501(c)4 organization, is lobbying to have Lankford’s resolution passed by Congress and have states join the compact.

Curtis Ellis, a spokesman for Competitive Governance Action, said the health care compact “is a better way to do it” because each state can tailor health care to its own needs and priorities. Competitive Governance Action has tracked the legislation from states through www.healthcarecompact.org.

“Decision-making closer to the local level is the better way to go,” he said. “Most health care is consumed within the state so it makes sense for them to have the decision-making power. This is a better way to do it because it will be tailored to each states’ needs and priorities.”

Lankford, who opposes the Affordable Care Act, said the compact does not conflict with efforts by state attorneys general, state legislators or members of Congress to repeal or modify the health care law.

“While we wait for this president and Senate Democrats to move beyond their intransigent support of this unworkable law, Congress can give interested states a way to solve their state’s health-care problems themselves,” Lankford said. “States that like their Obamacare can keep their Obamacare. The health care compact simply gives a state like Oklahoma the option to create a customized system that better meets the needs of Oklahoma families.”

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