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State Rep. proposes bill to block health care reform

by Adam Duvernay

Uncertainty surrounding proposed health care reforms has many of President Barack Obama’s political opponents seeking ways to curtail the effects of government-run medicine.


A proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of Louisiana would do just that — shield state residents and businesses from being forced to accept national health care changes.


Article XII, Section 8.2 would prohibit laws which compel persons, employers and health care providers to participate in any health care system.


The amendment’s author, Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, said his proposal was designed to preserve personal choice and allow Louisiana residents to refuse to accept a government option to health care.


“Liberal Democrats don’t want people to have a choice,” Talbot said. “They want to tell people what to do and fine them if they don’t.”


The drafting of this amendment puts Louisiana into a group of other states, including Arizona and Florida, which have written similar legislation to disregard mandatory health care reforms.


Arizona’s legislature passed a similar amendment earlier this year and is waiting on a vote from the general public in 2010.


Louisiana would require a favorable 2/3 vote in both the state House of Representatives and the Senate before the amendment would go to a popular vote.


The state’s congress will reconvene on March 29, 2010.


Though the amendment would not keep Louisiana residents from using the government-provided health care plan, it would shield people and employers from the penalties of not meeting the minimal federal level of coverage.


Under Part VIII, subpart A, section 59B of the current health care bill, individuals without the acceptable level of health care coverage will be fined 2.5 percent of the excess of the taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income.


Employers who do not meet the established level of health care coverage for their employees would likewise be fined 8 percent of their total payroll.


For some opponents of national health care reform, the problem is a 10th Amendment issue, because health care is not a power expressly given to the federal government by the constitution.


“In my opinion, health care is not one of those things the federal government has the right to impose on states,” Talbot said.


Texas Governor Rick Perry said in April he would evoke the 10th Amendment if federal health care reforms pass.


Talbot said his Republican colleagues and some conservative Democrats in Louisiana supported his amendment and reacted positively to its message.


Rep. Juan Lafonta, D-New Orleans, said it was to early to block such an important piece of legislation.


“It will adversely impact all the Medicare and Medicaid dollars we get from the federal government, so any funding we have for seniors, for disabled folks, for the elderly, a lot of folks are not going to receive those funds,” Lafonta told WWLTV.


Talbot said he understands the need for major health care reform in the United States, but pointed to failures in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as reasons to avoid a government solution.


“I don’t have all the answers,” Talbot said. “But, there are a lot of things we can do before we just socialize medicine.”


Talbot said lowering taxes on medical costs and allowing health care providers to compete across state lines were two options.


Though Talbot said he was confident his amendment would pass both the House and the Senate, he said he believed the matter would be taken to federal court.


Talbot said if that happened, he wasn’t sure how his amendment would fair or whether it would survive the judicial process.


“I have no idea how it will do,” Talbot said. “If you ask 10 lawyers, you’ll get 10 different opinions.”

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