Last November, Republicans swept into office, not only at the national level, but also in the state capitals. Voters in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maine, North Carolina, and Alabama shifted control of both of their state houses from Democrat to Republican. The GOP also took power in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, winning one previously Democrat controlled chamber, and the Republicans increased majorities in many other states.
Opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act served as a driving force in many elections.
The newly empowered legislators went to work “fighting” the health care act, often referred to as Obamacare, introducing health care freedom acts in 21 states. Kansas and Tennessee passed the legislation, which was signed into law by their respective governors, and Ohio and Florida voters will go to the polls in November 2011 to vote on state constitutional amendments. They joined seven states that passed similar legislation in 2010. These laws generally grant the citizens of the state the freedom to make their own health care choice and are designed to nullify the insurance mandates written into the federal law.
While health care freedom acts provide a sturdy soapbox for politicians to stand on while bragging of slaying the federal behemoth, the reality in many states proves somewhat less impressive. For all of the blustering about state sovereignty and dueling Uncle Sam, states still struggle to wean themselves from their insatiable appetite for federal funds as they move ahead implementing the structure for federal health care.
Kansas provides an interesting example.
On June 1, Governor Sam Brownback signed the Kansas version of health care freedom into law. HB2182 passed the Kansas House 107-14 and breezed through the Senate with only one opposing vote, 38-1.
But while Kansans celebrated their health care freedom, a different reality played out behind the scenes.
“It seems while the Attorney General, the Kansas House, the Kansas Senate and the governor have been busy fighting the good fight against Obamacare, the good folks at the Insurance Commission and KHPA (Kansas Health Policy Authority) have been extremely busy spending a $31-plus million federal grant awarded to the Insurance Commission and a $25 million combination of a federal grant and other federal matching funds awarded to KHPA for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare,” Kansas state Rep. Charlotte O’Hara (R-Overland Park),” said. “Oh, my, all is not as it seems.”
For example, the Kansas Insurance Department received a $1 million federal grant for planning the Kansas Health Benefit Exchange. The state also received $31.5 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “for use in building a technology system to provide eligibility services for both Medicaid/CHIP and Kansas Health Benefits Exchange.”
And on it goes.
So, while state legislators brag to their constituents about saving them from federal health care, the state bureaucracy goes right on implementing the very system that lawmakers claim the people don’t have to participate in.
Fortunately for Kansans, with public pressure mounting and a little sunlight shining on the process, Gov. Brownback announced he would return the Early Innovator Grant to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
“His determination that he had been ill advised in his acceptance of the grant in February shows that he is willing to listen to the good folks in Kansas,” O’Hara said. “And yes, it appears that the grassroots in Kansas is alive and well.”
But with the return of the federal money, questions persist. Projects originally funded by these federal dollars remain on the books. How will the state pay for them?
And even with the small victory, work continues building the framework for the PPACA, quietly, behind the scenes. An Aug. 19 report on the KansasWatchdog.org website reports that Brownback continues to seek federal funding for implementation of health care exchanges.
“Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration is moving forward with efforts to use federal grant money to fund development of information technology that would be used to support a health benefits exchange under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.”
Fear and money dive the system. And it’s not confined to the government sector. In an email to Rep. O’Hara, Eric Stafford, Senior Director of Government Affairs for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, reasoned that the state needs to go ahead and set up the exchange.
“While Obamacare has many faults, I would question whether the exchange – if properly built for the consumer – is one of those pieces that should be repealed.” He wrote, “I’m sure you’re aware that if we don’t establish our own exchange, the federal government will come in and make one for us. I would like the business community in Kansas to have a say in how our exchange should operate-not have one forced down our throats.”
O’Hara calls it a tired old line.
“This is the same old worn out excuse that we hear in Topeka, especially in Insurance Committee hearings. If we don’t do this, then the feds are going to come in and do it for us. What a bunch of hogwash. First, under what authority? And second, when is anybody going to stand up to the federal government and explain that states have sovereign powers granted and guaranteed in our U.S. Constitution? Of course, we have sold our sovereignty by taking not 30 pieces of silver, but billions of them, so we do have that dilemma to deal with.”
Issues in Kansas illustrate the reality all across the United States. Despite widespread opposition to nationalized health care and the many legislative acts passed to hinder implementation of the program, the creation of a nationalized system marches relentlessly forward, and citizens generally remain unaware of its progress, resting in the hope that toothless health care freedom acts and lawsuits will ultimately save the day.
The key to stopping implementation of the PPACA lies in bona fide nullification. State legislators must stand up and declare the entire program unconstitutional, null and void, and then take bold steps to halt implementation at every level. This includes yanking the states’ noses out of the federal feed-trough.
Tinkering around the edges will not stop federal takeover of the health care system. It’s time for states to apply Thomas Jefferson’s rightful remedy. Nullify Now!
For more information on health care nullification and legislative tracking, click HERE.
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