Legislative measures to ameliorate or to avoid compounding the financial or health care afflictions that Obamacare has visited on Georgia are no exception.
Jobs are vanishing. Health insurance premiums are climbing. Health care choices are shrinking. The error-plagued electronic enrollment process is infuriating. And federal and state government health care expenditures are soaring.
BUT THE OBAMACARE calamity cannot be cured with a legislative mega-dose in the current political environment. Indeed, a legislative overdose could kill the baby in the cradle.
That explains the scaled-back scope of my legislative initiative (House Bill 707) in the Georgia General Assembly to prevent the federal government from commandeering the resources of state or local government to promote, enforce or administer the federal health insurance provisions of Obamacare.
My bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 24. Its prohibitions are fourfold:
• No state or local officer or employee on government time or with government resources would be permitted to advocate for the expansion of Medicaid. That program already places a crippling burden on the state budget, and further expansion would be fiscally prohibitive.
THIS PRESCRIPTION against Obamacare advocacy with government resources complements a companion bill (House Bill 990) sponsored by Rep. Jan Jones. Her bill would prohibit expanding
eligibility requirements for Medicaid by increasing the qualifying income threshold without approval by an act of the General Assembly.
At present, Medicaid eligibility can be loosened by a decision of the governor alone despite the staggering ripple effects on the legislative budget process. My bill makes clear, however, that its prohibition does not limit the free speech rights of state or local officers or employees to advocate for Medicaid expansion on their own time and with their own private resources.
• H.B. 707 would further prohibit the state from establishing or operating a health insurance exchange website to administer or implement Obamacare. This opt-out clearly is permitted by the terms of Obamacare. The federal government has been and will continue to be required to use its own money and resources to establish a federal health insurance exchange mechanism, which is provoking further popular aversion to Obamacare.
• Additionally, my bill would prohibit any department or agency of the state or political subdivision from using any funds – federal, state or local – to operate so-called “navigator” programs to encourage or assist people to enroll in Obamacare.
At present, the Board of Regents and the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service are spending millions on navigator programs to accelerate the Obamacare train that is destined to crash. Georgia has no business participating in such a known folly.
• Finally, H.B. 707 would prohibit Georgia’s insurance commissioner from investigating, enforcing or adjudicating health insurance claims arising under the health insurance prescriptions of Obamacare. For example, there is a rule that generally prohibits 20 percent or more of insurance premium revenue to be devoted to administrative overhead.
THE COMMISSIONER would retain his authority unimpaired to investigate and to enforce insurance claims arising under state law. This division of federal and state authority is the norm in cases of concurrent jurisdiction. Federal antitrust complaints, for instance, are investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission, whereas state antitrust complaints are investigated by the attorney general of Georgia.
The U.S. Supreme Court has declared that the Constitution’s protection of state sovereignty precludes the federal government from commandeering the machinery of state government to enforce a federal mandate.
My bill is less ambitious than I would have preferred. I would have saved the state and local governments hundreds of millions of dollars in Obamacare fees. These are fees levied against health insurance policies written for all state or local employees by authorizing payments only for new employees hired after the beginning of the next fiscal year.
I BELIEVE GEORGIA would be constitutionally entitled to permit the health insurance fees to be assessed prospectively but not retrospectively based on the model that has been employed in applying federal Social Security taxes on state or local employees prospectively only. But that is for another day.
Democrats took great risks in passing Obamacare. It escaped a constitutional death by a single vote in the U.S. Supreme Court. We Republicans can be no less bold in fighting back. We cannot permit risk aversion to degenerate into political paralysis and defeat.
(The writer, R-Woodbine, represents District 180 in the Georgia House of Representatives.)