Saturday, April 17, 2010

Another health care nullification proposal introduced in Ohio House

State Representatives Terry Boose (R-Norwalk) and Barbara Sears (R-Sylvania) introduced HB 489 on Wednesday, April 14. The purpose of the bill is to nullify any effort by the federal government to make health care insurance mandatory. It is virtually identical to SB 244, introduced March 23 in the Ohio Senate.

This is the fifth legislative proposal brought forth to achieve this object. HB 489 and SB 244, if passed, will result in simple statutes. The other three would result in an amendment to the Ohio Constitution. This array of proposals is likely to get confusing for most people, so I shall try to sort it out here:

The first proposals made were joint resolutions HJR 3 and SJR 7, to place an amendment to the Ohio Constitution to prohibit mandatory participation in the health care system. They were introduced last August and September, before the House Democratic leadership made it generally known that Ohio House Speaker Armond Budish does not support putting forth symbolic resolutions to the federal government on any subject. Essentially, it appears that he finds such resolutions to be a waste of time.

Neither HB 489 and SB 244 have yet been assigned to a committee. Both bills are apparently intended to work around Speaker Budish's objection to resolutions. However, some may view this approach as problematic because it does not amend the Ohio Constitution to protect a fundamental right.

All of the other bills have been assigned to committee, but none of them have been reported out as yet.

This leaves us with the initiative petition offered by the Ohio Liberty Council, which would also amend the Ohio Constitution. The petition was submitted to Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner with the required number of signatures in March, and was certified as to form by Attorney General Richard Cordray April 1.

The initiative would add Section 21 to Article I of the Ohio Constitution with the following language:

Preservation of the freedom to choose health
care and health care coverage

Section 21 (A) No federal, state, or local law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system.

Section 21 (B) No federal, state, or local law or rule shall prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance.

Section 21 (C) No federal, state, or local law or rule shall impose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of health care or health insurance.

Section 21 (D) This section does not affect laws or rules in effect as of March 19, 2010; affect which services a health care provider or hospital is required to perform or provide; affect terms and conditions of government employment; or affect any laws calculated to deter fraud or punish wrongdoing in the health care industry.

Section 21 (E) As used in this Section,

(1) “Compel” includes the levying of penalties or fines.
(2) “Health care system” means any public or private entity or program whose function or purpose includes the management of, processing of, enrollment of individuals for, or payment for, in full or in part, health care services, health care data, or health care information for its participants.
(3) “Penalty or fine” means any civil or criminal penalty or fine, tax, salary or wage withholding or surcharge or any named fee established by law or rule by a government established, created, or controlled agency that is used to punish or discourage the exercise of rights protected under this section.

Despite the relatively brief, straightforward language, the Ohio Ballot Board ruled April 9 that the proposal be divided into two issues, which would force the petition backers to restart the process of collecting some 420,000 signatures, this time for two initiatives. The Ohio Ballot Board does not make clear (to me) how this division is to take place -- my guess is that Section 21 (A), (B), and (C) would be one proposal (dealing with freedom to purchase health care insurance, or not) and the remaining sections would be the other (dealing with "governance" of the health care insurance industry).

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law has filed for a writ of mandamus in the Ohio Supreme Court to block the Ohio Ballot Board's decision.

While I dislike adding statutory law to the Ohio Constitution -- in this case, I think it is needed to minimize the likelihood of a future General Assembly taking away what should be an essential freedom. The best solution, then, would be for us to see the initiative passed, hopefully in the November election. Passage would send a statement to the nation that this comes directly from the people of Ohio, that we do not want federal interference with our health care system.

No comments: