A group of Republican state senators on Thursday said they want to amend the state’s Constitution in an attempt to stop Democrats in Washington from enforcing health care reform here.
Sens. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) and Chip Rogers (R-Marietta) were joined by about half a dozen colleagues to unveil their plans. The resolution would be introduced when lawmakers return in January.
The proposed amendment would, Hill and Rogers said, would allow Georgia to invoke the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment says that any power not explicitly granted the federal government in the Constitution is preserved for the states.
Hill and Rogers argue that the health care reform bill being debated in Congress would violate the 10th Amendment and that their state amendment would protect Georgia from having to participate in any federal reform.
“The 10th Amendment protects us from such federal mandates,” Hill said. “United we stand to protect Georgians, united we stand to protect these freedoms for Georgians.”
But when asked if the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which grants Congress the right to regulate and enforce matters related to interstate commerce, would interfere with their plan, Hill could not say.
“The 10th amendment allows any state to preserve their own rights,” Hill said. “We’re saying this is one right that is preserved for all Georgians and is not delegated out to the United States government.”
Asked if Medicare, which is government-run health care for seniors, would also then be unconstitutional, Hill said, “That’s a good question. I don’t know yet. We’ll fight that battle when it comes before us.”
He and Rogers said the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress want to force Americans into government-run health care and that that would be bad.
“Don’t come to Georgia and put this on us,” Rogers said. “We don’t need more government mandates. In the United States of America, and particularly in Georgia, you ought to have the freedom to purchase health care if you like.”
But when pressed about details of the Democrats’ plans, Rogers and Hill were less certain. According to Obama himself, the government option for health care would be that – an option. Consumers could keep their private insurance if they wish.
But Rogers isn’t convinced. He said to ask “our friends in Canada” if they like government-run health care.
Hill said that the Democrats’ plans would indeed allow consumers to keep their private insurance – but only until the end of the year, and then all private plans would be cancelled and consumers would be forced into the government-run plan.
Hill said that was in one of the draft versions of the plan being considered in Congress.
But Obama said his plan includes a number of consumer protections, one of which requires private insurance companies to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays the premiums in full.
Update 4:10 p.m.: Later Thursday, meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who returns to Washington next week to continue the debate, met with about 200 Georgians for whom Medicare is not just an abstract.
In front of nearly 200 seniors at the Park Springs assisted living center, Isakson said while he opposes Obama’s plan, he completely supports Medicare.
“I want to preserve Medicare and see that it’s as good as it can be,” Isakson said.
Update 9:28 p.m.: This statement just came in from Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta):
“This constitutional amendment enables Georgians, who qualify, to continue to have the freedom to participate in government health care plans such as Medicaid, Medicare and Peachcare. We are not challenging the constitutionality of any existing government subsidized health care. This clarifies any comment which might imply otherwise.
“I have also offered legislation which would provide a financial scholarship for low income children on Medicaid and Peachcare so they can have private health insurance to give them better access to doctors.”