ObamaCare may destroy health care in 49 other states, but not here in Georgia, say GOP state senators Judson Hill and Chip Rogers. They plan to stop it dead at the state border.
If Georgians want to buy health insurance, Hill told Fox News last week, they should be allowed to do so. But we “don’t want to be penalized or have it forced upon us” by government, he said. So Hill, Rogers and a handful of other Senate Republicans have proposed a state constitutional amendment to guarantee that Georgians cannot be compelled to buy health insurance.
Furthermore, they believe that under the states’ rights doctrine, such an amendment would make any federal law to the contrary unenforceable here in Georgia.
Of course, Washington doesn’t have a monopoly on Big Government enthusiasts. Just two years ago, legislation was introduced in the Georgia Senate that was eerily similar to what Obama is now proposing in Washington.
For example, the Obama approach calls for creating a centralized government-run insurance exchange, a kind of clearinghouse where insurance companies would sell their products to consumers. Senate Bill 28 would have done the same thing, creating a Georgia Health Insurance Exchange. The exchange would have been the only legal means to sell health insurance to individuals and small businesses.
Like federal legislation, the state bill also tried to force citizens to buy a minimum amount of insurance. In fact, anybody with a gross income of 300 percent above poverty would have to buy health insurance or post a $10,000 bond with the state.
If a citizen refused to comply, the consequences were draconian. The state was empowered to garnish a person’s wages and withhold state income tax refunds until that required $10,000 minimum was achieved.
Now, that sounds like the kind of bill that would absolutely horrify small-government conservatives such as Hill and Rogers. But here’s the strange part: Hill was the bill’s chief sponsor; Rogers a co-sponsor.
At the time, Hill gave Newt Gingrich the credit for a lot of the ideas in SB 28, and for good reason. For example, the former House speaker was a strong advocate of digitizing all medical data and then analyzing that data to determine which treatments and procedures worked best.
In fact, just last year in a New York Times oped piece co-authored with Sen. John Kerry, Gingrich noted that “nearly 100,000 Americans are killed every year by preventable medical errors.”
“Working closely with doctors, the federal government and the private sector should create a new institute for evidence-based medicine,” Kerry and Gingrich argued. “This institute would conduct new studies and systematically review the existing medical literature to help inform our nation’s over-stretched medical providers.”
As the Congressional Budget Office explained, “better information about the costs, risks, and benefits of different treatment options, combined with new incentives reflecting the information, could eventually alter the way in which medicine is practiced and yield lower health care spending without having adverse effects on health. Over the long term, the potential reduction in spending below projected levels could be substantial.”
SB 28 attempted to implement such a program on the state level. It required all insurers, doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and other medical professionals to submit electronic medical data to the state. A new Georgia Patient Safety Corporation would analyze the data “for the purpose of recommending changes in practices and procedures.”
The legislation being considered in Washington closely mirrors the approach advocated by Gingrich and Hill. The House bill creates a “Comparative Effectiveness Research Center” to serve much the same function as the Georgia Patient Safety Corporation. Like the agency envisioned by Hill and Gingrich, its findings would be advisory only.
“Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit … the Center to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer,” the bill states.
Unfortunately, the “Comparative Effectiveness Research Center” has since been given a new name by conservatives: “death panel.”
Suddenly, the idea of mining electronic data for insight into cheaper, more effective care has become a conspiracy to control doctors and deny care to the elderly and vulnerable. Gingrich himself now describes comparative effectiveness research as a effort to ration care, complaining that “this one-size-fits-all approach goes against everything modern medicine is learning about the genetics of the human body.”
It’s enough to make you sick.