Posted Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011, at 12:28 PM
Senators John Barasso, R-WY, and Lindsey Graham, R-SC, have introduced The State Health Care Choice Act, written to allow states to opt out of the individual mandate, the employer mandate, expansion of Medicaid programs and "new federal requirements for regulating health insurance." The senators, introducing the legislation at a presser, were admirably blunt.
"Yesterday, Judge Vinson ruled that the Obama health care bill was unconstitutional," said Barasso. "This is the second dagger into the heart of Obamacare."
"We're opening up a third front in the challenges against Obama health care," said Graham. If the bill passed, "it would be easier for me to imagine more than half the states opting out of Obamacare. The bill would fall." Graham got a follow-up question, asking whether opting out would shrink the risk pool. "You've hit the point. The goal is repeal and replace." The goal was to bring the debate over health care into the 2012 campaign and into "the streets."
I asked why this was necessary when states had the option -- and were exercising it -- to get waivers that allowed them to develop their own health care plans.
"That doesn't give the states the options to opt out," said Barasso. "All the criteria of Obamacare are there." (These criteria include some of the aspects of the bill that are popular, of course, like the ban on discrimination against pre-existing conditions.)
"Right now you have to get a waiver from HHS," said Graham. "Our bill says you can chart your own destiny. You don't have to go back to the HHS."
This was sort of a silly question, though, like asking whether starting a brushfire might affect the integrity of a nearby tree. Graham got more questions on why this was necessary, and went after the Democrats for the way the bill had passed in the first place -- "sleazy Chicago politics," "buying off votes to get the sixtieth vote." Twice, he mentioned that the final Senate vote had occurred on Christmas eve,
"You didn't listen to us when we had ideas," said Graham. He pointed to Barasso, who's a medical doctor. "This guy's really smart. He has ideas. He knows the status quo isn't working."