March 30, 2014

Graves signs on to health care compact bill

Charles Oliver

— Three years ago, the Georgia Legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill asking the federal government to recognize an interstate compact giving states that join greater powers to manage health care within their borders.

Now, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-14th District, has signed onto a bill — House Joint Resolution 110 — that would do just that.

“I support the effort of Georgia and other states to take control of health care away from Washington,” Graves said in a statement. “As we have witnessed, the centralized approach of Obamacare has been devastating, causing lost jobs, pay, doctors and health plans. Making matters worse, the implementation has been political and chaotic, as the administration continues to confuse the public with unilateral rewrites and delays.”

“As we work to repeal Obamacare, I believe states and their citizens should be able to pursue health care freedom and choice, and protect themselves from the broken promises and failed policies of the Obama administration,” he said.

H.J. Res. 110 was introduced in February by Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla. It currently has five co-sponsors, including Graves and fellow Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Grantville.

So far, eight states have joined the health care compact: Georgia, Alabama. Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

If Congress approves the compact, health care decision-making authority and responsibility would be transferred from the federal government to member states. Those member states would then be free to implement their own health care systems without interference from the federal government, using federal health care funds already collected and spent in their state.

The compact would not affect health care programs and benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs or programs for American Indians, and states would have to spend federal health care dollars on health care. They could not spend it on other programs.

The health care compact was introduced in the state House of Representatives by Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, and in the state Senate by Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton.

Bethel notes that such compacts are specifically provided for by the U.S. Constitution.

“They have been used for things such as settling state boundary disputes,” he said. “But they have been used for other things. We actually just passed a measure to join an interstate compact on juvenile records. If someone moves to another state and their child moves with them, this would make sure their juvenile records can be transferred to that state.”

Bethel praised Graves for signing on to legislation to recognize the health care compact.

“A lot of people think this is an anti-Obamacare move,” Bethel said. “And it exempts us from that. But this is really bigger than that. States who are participants would be able to engage in the traditional notion of federalism and experiment a little bit and see what works.”