Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Continuing an American Tradition of Non-Compliance in Georgia

Four cases settled by the Supreme Court of the United States spanning from 1872 to 2012 have set a legal precedent which the court referred to as the “Anti-Commandeering Doctrine”. This legal precedent strictly prohibits the federal government from “commandeering” state governments by dedicating their resources without the consent of the states themselves.

Under this legal basis several states across the Union are introducing legislation to restrict the federal government from hijacking state resources through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act otherwise known as “Obamacare”. This federal act, through various measures such as the push for expansion of Medicaid, establishment of “state-run” health care exchanges and utilization of state universities to deploy Obamacare “Navigators” to educate the public about the act (along with many more) seeks to utilize state resources in order to implement a federal program.

Georgia has taken a stand on many of these points so far and elected not to participate. Over the last few weeks, several legislators and myself introduced “HB 707, The Georgia Healthcare Freedom and ACA Noncompliance Act”. This bill would prohibit any state agent, agency or resource from being utilized for the purpose of implementing provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Shortly after introduction of HB707, the Obama Administration tweeted that the act is “The law of the land”.

Our initiative does not debate that. This measure simply says to the federal government, “If you want it, you will pay for it and implement it”. Assuming passage of HB 707 is successful, the ACA will remain the law of the land in Georgia, but Georgians won’t be paying for its implementation through their state tax dollars. This is especially important due to our state’s constitutional requirement that we pass an annual balanced budget. For every dollar that we increase in healthcare costs to the state (which is nowhere stated in our constitution to be a responsibility of the state), we must deduct a dollar from other services like education (which is a constitutionally enumerated “primary obligation” of the state) and public safety. To illustrate this, Georgia’s Department of Community Health has already requested $100 million in funding for implementation of ACA in 2015. That would have to come from another line item on the budget. It cost us $26 million in the FY14 budget which is currently in effect.

It is equally important to understand how the ACA is affecting Georgians. First, according to the Obama Administration’s Department of Health & Human Services, as of December 11th there were fewer than 7,000 Georgians who had selected a marketplace healthcare plan afforded by the ACA. However, nearly 400,000 Georgians had lost their current plan due to its implementation. That’s a negative gain in covered Georgians of (393,000+) plans. In addition to cancellations, according to the Manhattan Institute1 every age bracket in Georgia will see an increase in their health care premiums under the ACA ranging from 50% to 154%.

Some costs to the state will remain unavoidable. The “wood working principle” is a natural effect of the implementation of the act. When a Georgian goes to healthcare.gov to seek out their eligibility for coverage in order to avoid resulting fines for those without insurance, the portal notifies them if they are eligible for state paid Medicaid. This is resulting in a staggering number of new enrollees who were previously eligible but did not have a need for the service. This cost will be borne by the state regardless of compliance or non-compliance with the ACA, which makes it even more important that we do not add additional burden on state resources for a plan the state legislature and executive did not endorse or design.

Healthcare in this country, specifically the regulations surrounding it, has many problems. Obamacare’s passage has not solved those problems. Instead, it has increased them exponentially as providers, regulators, states, insurers, patients, etc. strive to maneuver increased costs and burdens to obtain care. There have been many alternative solutions offered on both sides of the aisle. It is my hope that we can begin to hear these put forward and debated to bring about real healthcare reform in our country.

If you have any concerns about HB 707, health care or any other issue feel free to reach out to me at Michael@CaldwellForHouse.com or on my cell phone at (678)523-8570. You can also join us at 9:00am on Saturday mornings for our Weekly Coffee with District 20 at Copper Coin Coffee in downtown Woodstock. Thank you for the opportunity to represent you in our General Assembly.

1 http://www.manhattan-institute.org/knowyourrates/

Published in the January 2014 issue of Townelaker.