The wrong approach to health care reform

  • Article by: TWILA BRASE
  • Updated: August 23, 2011 - 8:40 PM

President Barack Obama was welcomed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar while Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton stood at right after he arrived on Air Force One Monday morning, August 15, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minn. to begin a three day bus tour of the midwest.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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The Star Tribune places blame in the wrong lap ("An ill-timed health reform blame game," Aug 19).

The editorial blames the Republican-led Minnesota Legislature for digging in its heels and refusing to implement the federal American Health Benefit Exchange mandated by the federal health care reform law.

The real blame should be directed at Gov. Mark Dayton, who is using federal dollars to establish the exchange despite no legislative authority to do so. Dayton is marching to the drumbeat of the Oval Office, rather than following the laws of Minnesota.

The Legislature purposefully rejected the mandate to establish this federal command and control center. Legislators saw the exchange for the lobster trap that it is.

They read the law. They looked at the strings. They realized the exchange would undermine state's rights, limit individual liberty and impose federal controls over personal lives.

They saw new middle-class entitlements, expanded government dependency, limited insurance options, broad data sharing and intrusions on the confidential patient-doctor relationship.

They said yes to the Tenth Amendment and no to federal control over health insurance and health care choices.

Truth is important. Instead of calling the exchange a "marketplace," the editors should have revealed that exchanges limit individuals to four levels of government-grade insurance products (bronze, silver, gold, platinum).

Employers are allowed by law to further limit these choices for their employees. Health insurance policies in the exchange are expected to be more expensive due to new federally mandated benefits, and exchanges will share private data with the IRS to enforce the unconstitutional mandate to purchase health insurance.

These are the qualities of government-run health care, not a free and open marketplace for health care.

Instead of charging Republican leadership with overseeing a "do-nothing Legislature," the Star Tribune should have showcased the dogged determination of key Republicans to stop the federal takeover of health care.

Because of their persistence, Minnesota stands with other state legislatures and governors who have refused to establish the federally mandated exchange. These include Kansas, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Florida, which have sent the exchange grant dollars back to the federal government.

The newspaper's apparent disregard for Minnesota law and our constitutional separation of powers is disappointing.

The Star Tribune chastises the Legislature for refusing to create the exchange and then supports the governor's unilateral action by writing, "The administration needed to keep things moving so that the state didn't fall further behind."

However, if the governor had this kind of power, there would be no need for a Legislature. Governors would simply become functionaries of the federal government.

The editors attempt to scare Minnesotans with the possibility that the federal government will "step in with a one-size-fits-all model" of the exchange if Minnesota refuses to comply.

However, the Obama administration never gave the federal government funding to do so, according to Politico. It now also appears that the government does not even plan to write regulations for establishing a fallback federal exchange.

The administration is counting on states to install the one-size-fits-all exchange on behalf of the federal government and fully fund them in 2015 when the federal exchange grants to states are depleted.

States that build the exchange have little wiggle room. By law, all exchanges must conform to federal requirements written by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The first set of HHS exchange regulations is 347 pages and uses the word "require" an astonishing 811 times. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals underscored these federal restrictions in its recent ruling on the Florida lawsuit against Obamacare.

They wrote the following about the law's American Health Benefit Exchanges:

"The Act allows states some flexibility in operations and enforcement, though states must either (1) directly adopt the federal requirements set forth by HHS, or (2) adopt state regulations that effectively implement the federal standards, as determined by HHS..."

The Minnesota Legislature correctly refused to build President Obama's exchange. Now they must stop Gov. Dayton from acting on his own to build it. Minnesota is not a "laggard" as the editors claim.

The federal health reform law intends to nationalize health care. By resisting the exchange, Minnesota legislators showed themselves to be leaders in protecting and preserving health freedom.

Twila Brase is president of the Citizens' Council for Health Freedom.

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