A blog to keep current on MPIRG'S fight for social and environmental justice.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Don't Judge A Bill By It's Title

The Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act, House File 199, was passed through the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Reform Committee Wednesday afternoon. Representative Steve Gottwalt (R) introduced the bill that says no individual can be mandated to have health care coverage under the United States Constitution.

The bill counters the measures put into place by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA. This new federal law mandates that all individuals have some form of health care or be penalized by the government. "The government has no authority to force someone to buy a product," Representative Kiffmeyer (R) said. Gottwalt said "Obamacare" is outside the jurisdiction of the federal government and it is the states' freedom to make these decisions.

Emphasis on the ability to be "free to choose" spun the committee debate around "what does freedom mean?" The Citizens Council for Health Freedom was in attendance in support of H.F. 199. According to the group, freedom means the government cannot force an individual to have health insurance. The CCHF also said freedom means that those who cannot afford and do not qualify for health insurance are happy receive the charity of doctors who are free to give that care at no cost.

Representative Tina Liebling (DFL) responded to say that freedom means the ability to still be covered by your insurance plan even when your paycheck can't quite cover the whole cost. She continued to say that when those who can't afford health insurance end up with extensive medical bills, it's their neighbors who end up paying for the uncompensated care. Under the law of the ACA, the risk is spread in the insurance pool and you provide for your own costs to the extent that you are able.

Some members of the committee encouraged Gottwalt to consider the financial implications of this bill as there was no fiscal note included. Should the bill be passed in Minnesota it could be in direct conflict with federal law and challenged in the Supreme Court. If that were to happen, it could mean legal costs to the state.

H.F. 199 passed through the House's Health and Human Services Reform Committee with a roll call vote of 12 in favor and 9 opposed. It has now been referred to the House Government Operations and Elections Committee.

-Marisa Wojcik

MPIRG/UpTake Legislative Intern

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