Letters to the Editor

Implement health care exchanges only after state opts-out of ObamaCare

Dear Senate President Pro Tempore Betty Boyd,

The discussion surrounding Senate Bill 200 (the Health Benefit Exchange) is proof positive that the enactment of ObamaCare has set the American debate about health care backward by light years.

For years, conservatives at all levels have touted the free market virtues of healthcare exchanges as a way to give private citizens greater purchasing power and greater access to private health insurance. The concept of individuals banding together to cut the best healthcare deal possible for themselves and their family has been a staple of the House Republican platform for many, many years.

But enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — otherwise known as ObamaCare — has so thoroughly contaminated the public discourse about the nation’s health care system that even simple and common-sense ideas like health care exchanges have become toxic and fraught with public policy peril. This is more than a symbolic concern. Many of my constituents and a few of my colleagues have told me that, while exchanges are themselves sensible public policy, the potential linkage of this legislation to ObamaCare is far more damaging than whatever benefit is derived from the bill. Some have worried that, even though the exchanges created in my bill are totally independent of ObamaCare, that future legislators or Governors (or even the federal government) could hijack this local control measure to implement ObamaCare. It is not in the plain language of the bill, but after all the over-reaches that government has engaged in of late, it is an issue that I want to settle in this legislation in the clearest possible terms.

On this point let me be clear: ObamaCare is unconstitutional, and it is bad public policy. I applaud Attorney General John Suthers and his colleagues around the nation for taking the fight to the courts. I have supported legislation in the past to legislatively opt Colorado from its big government vices.

That brings us back to SB 200, and the fear that the health exchange legislation might be unwittingly used to support the implementation of ObamaCare. There is only one way to solve this problem, and that is to make absolutely sure that the health care exchanges are implemented only after the State of Colorado opts-out of ObamaCare. Specifically, I am requesting that the Committee add the following provision to the legislation.

“The provisions of SB 200 shall not be implemented, nor shall they have force or effect, until the State of Colorado requests, and the federal government grants, a full waiver from all terms, restrictions, and requirements in the federal Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act of 2010, and all rules, regulations and administrative guidelines issued thereto. The Governor of the State of Colorado shall seek such waiver within 60 days of the enactment of this Act.”

In as much as I believe that health care exchanges are a good idea, in order to be a good representative of my district, I must ensure that these state exchanges are not hijacked for the unconstitutional purposes of implementing the federal health care legislation.

With this amendment, Colorado would become one of the first states in the nation to take up President Obama on his recent offer to allow states to opt-out of his health care bill. For his part, Governor Hickenlooper expressed openness to the idea of an opt-out. In exchange for the bold step of opting out of ObamaCare, the state of Colorado will have health care exchanges that help patients get and receive affordable and reliable health care. It is a win-win for the state of Colorado.

I strongly encourage the committee to accept the above language. If the committee chooses not to add this important provision and still forwards the bill to the House, I will work all of the votes in my caucus to ensure that the ObamaCare opt-out provision is added in the House of Representatives prior to returning to the Senate.

I continue to believe that health care exchanges are a common sense policy, just as conservatives have advocated for many, many years. And with the addition of the above provision, they can be implemented into law without federal intrusion, instruction or interference.

Rep. Amy Stephens
House Majority Leader
R-Monument