I applaud Governor Bentley’s recent bold decision to oppose the establishment of a federally mandated healthcare exchange under the terms outlined in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known affectionately as “Obamacare”. The liberal Democrat leadership in the State House and Senate have already decried the Governor’s position and in doing so they continue to unmask themselves as the true liberals that they are. Liberals ignore the fact that such a federally mandated exchange, even created at the state level, does not mean it will be run with state input. The federal government would in fact provide, change, and update the policies and guidelines under which the exchange would operate. The truth is clear….if we as a state succumb benignly to the craggy grip of Obamacare by setting up a mandated healthcare exchange we have in turn exchanged our freedoms.
It should be noted is that this was not a light decision that was made in some kneejerk fashion. On the contrary, after extensive analysis it was determined that the annual cost of operating the exchange in state taxpayer dollars would reach upwards of $50 million. As a sitting member of the Senate General Fund Committee I can testify firsthand that the State cannot afford to do so without raising taxes on its citizens. In essence the federal government has told Alabama lawmakers that we will have to raise state taxes to participate in the federal program. That is an overreach of the highest order.
The second hinge point is the fact that the law in Alabama does not allow for the establishment of Obamacare and the people of this state have firmly rejected it. This past election saw an overwhelming majority of Alabama voters approve a measure that would make it a violation of our State Constitution to force any person, employer or health care provider to participate in a health care program not of their own choosing. I have heard liberal pundits dismissively state that federal law will trump but that is not necessarily the case. Alabama has now posed a very reasonable 10th Amendment question which will have to be answered.
Lastly, the establishment of the exchange mandated by the federal government flies in the face of the ongoing successes being realized as the conservative legislature works to reduce the size and scope of state government. To date several departments have been combined and the findings of recent commissions are poised to generate great savings to the state by streamlining additional departments and creating efficiencies in the operation of state government. The federally mandated healthcare exchange in turn creates additional unwanted bureaucracy and cost. The federal government under the Obama administration has become more bloated and the mandate of Obamacare has become a forced bloating of state government as well.
This is the greatest nation in the history of the world. I do not join in the irrational calls for secession, and I do not believe in demagoguery. But I do believe in the right of the states to question and even reject federal programs that violate the sovereignty of state government with total disregard for the will of a state’s citizenry. In my opinion the establishment of the federal healthcare exchange would represent a freedom exchange.
Phil Williams, API Director of Policy Strategy, was a State Senator from Gadsden from 2010-2018. Follow him on Twitter at @SenPhilWilliams.