The following was written by State Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine), lead sponsor of HB 707, the Georgia Health Care Freedom Act.
Last Monday, the Georgia House of Representatives voted by an overwhelming margin of 115-59 to pass my pioneering bill (HB 707) to circumscribe the Obamacare debacle for Georgia’s citizens and health care community. The bill has moved to the Georgia Senate and Senate Insurance & Labor Committee, where its fate will now be determined. Only an aroused Georgia electorate with the courage to say “No” to the federal Leviathan can assure legislative success and relief from Obamacare’s miseries. Jobs are vanishing. Health insurance premiums are climbing. Health care choices are shrinking. Error-plagued electronic enrollment remains vexing. And federal and state government health care expenditures continue soaring.
Obamacare’s multiple infirmities, however, cannot be cured with an omnibus bill in the current political environment. A legislative overdose could kill the baby in the cradle. That explains why I scaled back my scope of HB 707 short of my ultimate ambition to prevent the federal government from commandeering any resource of state or local government to promote, enforce, or administer the federal health insurance provisions of Obamacare. As passed by the Georgia House of Representatives, the bill’s prohibitions are fourfold.
No state or local officer or employee on government time or with government resources is permitted to advocate for the expansion of Medicaid. (They would be permitted such advocacy speaking as private individuals with private resources). The Medicaid program already places a crippling burden on the state budget, and further expansion would be fiscally prohibitive. The United States Supreme Court, moreover, has held that the First Amendment right to free speech does not apply when the government speaks. This prescription against Obamacare advocacy with government resources complements a companion bill passed by the Georgia House of Representatives (HB 990) sponsored by Representative Jan Jones (R-Milton). Her bill prohibits 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 budget. Medicaid spending is too important to be excluded from the legislative domain.
HB 707 also prohibits the state from establishing or operating a health insurance exchange to administer or implement Obamacare. This opt-out is clearly permitted by the terms of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The federal government will be obligated to use its own money and resources to establish a federal health insurance exchange in Georgia, and will be held politically accountable for the already conspicuous incompetence in its operation or administration.
My bill further prohibits 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 persons 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 a federal health insurance program that is destined to crash. The bill would not, however, require the return of federal navigator funds already received by the University of Georgia.
Finally, HB 707 prohibits the Commissioner of Insurance from investigating, enforcing, or adjudicating health insurance claims arising under the health insurance prescriptions of Obamacare, for example, a prohibition on denying insurance based on pre-existing conditions or requiring coverage for dependents up to age 26. The federal government would be required to enforce Obamacare’s federal health insurance mandates, as it does other federal directives. This constitutional imperative is necessary to hold the federal government politically accountable for its legislative or administrative utopian follies that evoke popular wrath. Thus, precedents of the United States Supreme Court establish that neither Congress nor the President are permitted under the Constitution from conscripting state or local officials into administering the ill-conceived Obamacare health insurance dictates to divert the electorate’s attention from the federal culprit. My bill retains authority for Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner to investigate and to enforce health insurance claims arising under state law.
This division of federal and state authority is the norm in cases of concurrent jurisdiction over particular subjects of legislation. Federal antitrust complaints, for instance, are investigated by the United States Department of Justice or Federal Trade Commission, whereas state antitrust complaints are investigated by the Attorney General of Georgia. Federal crimes are investigated by the FBI, whereas state crimes are investigated by state law enforcement agents.
My bill is less ambitious than I would have preferred. I would have saved state and local governments hundreds of millions of dollars in Obamacare fees levied against health insurance policies written for all state or local employees by authorizing payments only for new employees hired after July 1, 2015. 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. I will continue this discussion in the senate.
Democrats took great legal risks in passing Obamacare. It escaped constitutional death by a single vote in the United States Supreme Court. We Republicans must be no less bold in confronting the never-ending encroachments of the federal Leviathan. We should learn from the tortoise. It only makes progress when it sticks out its neck.