By MICHAEL NOYES
HELENA – The state House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would authorize a health care compact seen as an alternative to Obamacare in that it would take health care out of the hands of the federal government and give it to the states.
House Bill 526, sponsored by Rep. Champ Edmunds, R-Missoula, pictured at left, now heads to the Senate for action after a 62-36 vote in the House.
An official with the Health Care Compact Alliance said the action is an important step.
“The Health Care Compact gives the health care decision-making power back to the people instead of the bureaucrats in Washington. It allows greater citizen influence, more competition, and more options for health care for millions of Americans,” Eric O’Keefe, chairman of the Health Care Compact Alliance, said in a media release on Thursday. “This important legislation will provide the citizens of Montana with greater control over their government and, ultimately, over their health care.”
A spokesman for the Democratic Party in Montana referred a request for comment to Jackie Boyle, a policy adviser for the Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance.
Boyle said she doesn’t disagree with the concept of introducing more competition into the market, but said she thinks the national exchange outlined in the recently passed national health care legislation is the way to accomplish that.
“We’re really focusing all of our efforts on the health insurance exchange,” Boyle said. “That’s going to do exactly what (they) are trying to do on this interstate compact. It’s going to make it where consumers can shop for policies and compare policies.”
Edmunds could not be reached for immediate comment.
It does not need the signature of the president to take effect. The way health care works in a member state is not prescribed in the compact. Who and what is covered as well as the level of regulation are determined by each state after the compact is ratified.
The Health Care Compact is an initiative of the Health Care Compact Alliance, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to providing Americans more influence over decisions that govern their health care.
In January, political columnist Fred Barnes reported in “The Weekly Standard” that many states are using the Health Care Compact as an alternative to President Baraack Obama’s health-care package commonly known as “Obamacare.”
“By banding together, states would have far more political clout in Washington,” Barnes wrote. “Backers of the health care compact figure they need more than 20 states to pressure Washington to go along. Their assumption is members of Congress (even Democrats who support Obamacare) would be inclined to vote for a formal request from their home state. Members who oppose Obama-care would vote for it as well.”
Compacts, dating back to the Mayflower Compact of 1620, have been used to innovate reforms throughout U.S. history. Authority for compacts was established in the Constitution (Article 1, Section 10), and more than 200 such agreements have been developed. These are voluntary agreements between citizens, groups of citizens acting as states, and groups of states. When consented by congress, they have the force of federal law.