House gives preliminary OK to health care compact
CONCORD, N.H.—An effort intended to free the state from the mandates of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul received preliminary approval in the New Hampshire House Wednesday.
The bill would create an interstate compact that would place all health care programs under the member states' control, including federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid, while enabling the states to continue receiving federal funding.
The House voted 253-92 in favor of the bill.
The bill would effectively supersede any federal health care laws. This includes the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act -- President Obama's signature health care initiative to extend health care coverage to all residents.
House Republican leadership has railed frequently against the law and has attempted to join the 26-state lawsuit against the law several times. However, the New Hampshire Supreme Court said the attempt was unconstitutional.
Republicans say a "one-size-fits-all" health care mandate isn't feasible, and states should determine their own independent solutions.
"We're doing this for the health care of our constituents," said Rep. Daniel Itse.
Opponents questioned the bill's legality, citing constitutional requirements for a separation of powers and acknowledging federal law as the supreme law of the land.
Itse and other supporters of a multistate agreement say the law is constitutional so long as Congress approves it, a stipulation included in the bill.
"Guess what, if Congress wants us to do it, that's part of the supreme law of the land," said the Fremont Republican.
State funding for health care would be determined by state legislature each budget cycle. Base level funding would start at $2.92 billion, the amount of federal funding from the 2010 federal fiscal year. The bill also mandates annual, unconditional federal funding up to the state funding level for that year.
House Democrats condemned the bill's passage in a press release, warning of unstable funding subject to state budget pressures.
"New Hampshire could see tax rates increase dramatically as we lose automatic federal funding increases and the Legislature could raise eligibility age or income, cut benefits, and reduce provider rates," said Rep. Gary Richardson, a Hopkinton Democrat.
The House Commerce Committee will review the bill next before holding another vote.
At least four states -- Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas and Georgia -- have enacted similar measures into law according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New Hampshire is among 11 states that are considering legislation according to the Health Care Compact Alliance, a nonprofit group advocating for the legislation.