Republican-dominated Legislature tries again for state power over health care

By Kyle Tons

JEFFERSON CITY – The Republican-dominated General Assembly is making yet another effort to exempt Missouri from President Barack Obama’s federal health-care reforms.

The House Rules Committee voted Monday to pass a bill to the House floor that would add Missouri to the multi-state Health Care Compact, which is pushing for state regulation of health care. The compact would supersede federal regulations if Congress agrees.

Regulating health care is too complex for the federal government and should be under state jurisdiction, according to the compact.

The bill passed the committee by a 6-4 vote, even though the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, was not present.

The bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Timothy Jones, R-Eureka, the Republican floor leader, said he favors the compact as a means of giving states a unified front.

“Compacts have proven to be a good way for states to get together on an issue of similar concern and move those issues forward,” Jones said.

He said the bill allows states to manage their own health care policies.

“I think the states are best positioned to be in charge of their own health-care needs for their health-care populations versus the federal government doing it on a one-size-fits-all model,” Jones said.

Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, voted against sending the bill to the House floor.

“My understanding is that it is another attempt, in essence, to undo the federal health-care mandate,” Colona said. “I thought we already voted on that once, twice, maybe three times.”

Colona acknowledged that Missouri will continue to have a hard time overturning federal health care because federal laws supersede those of the states under the U.S. Constitution.

“Last time I checked, we’re still supposed to abide by federal mandate,” Colona said. “If the members of the state of Missouri don’t want to comply with the federal mandate, then perhaps we need to elect some new congressmen, new senators and change the president. There’s nothing we can do about that in the Missouri General Assembly.”

The bill will now move to the House for discussion on the floor.