Group lobbies for state health care

Thursday, January 26, 2012

By Michael Cleveland

Staff Writer

MILFORD – Every state should have the right, and the power, to design its own health care system without interference from the federal government, a group of 11 people was told here last week.

At a forum in Milford Town Hall sponsored by the state branches of Americans for Prosperity and the Republican Liberty Caucus, Matt Murphy of the Healthcare Compact Alliance said the key is for enough states to join a health care compact and to get the compact approved by Congress. Then, each state in the compact could design a health care program that would specifically target its residents.

Already, said Murphy, the legislatures of Oklahoma, Georgia, Texas and Missouri have adopted the compact and their governors have signed it. But four states won’t be enough to convince Congress to approve the compact, so the Alliance is shooting for an additional 20 states by the end of 2012. When a new Congress is sworn in in 2013, the Alliance will pressure members to approve the proposal.

Were Congress to do so, each state could either design its own health care plan using money from federal block grants, or even vote to remain within a federal health care system, said Murphy.

“We can make decisions better at the state or local level than we can on the federal level,” said Corey Lewandowski, New Hampshire director for Americans for Prosperity, in Windham.

And Murphy said, “Washington doesn’t know what New Hampshire needs for health care.”

He cited Florida, which he said has more retirees than New Hampshire.

In this state, Rep. HB 1560 is sponsored by House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt has introduced a compact bill HB 1560, that was referred to the Constitutional Review and Statutory Recodification Committee. The Web site Blue Hampshire, which describes itself as an online community focused around progressive politics in the Granite State, calls Bettencourt’s measure an “end-run” around federal health care reform, referring to the compact proposal as “an interstate Health Care Compact that would replace all federal health care programs — including Medicare and Medicaid — with block grants to the states.”

Murphy said the issue is about who knows a state’s needs best – the people in the state, or bureaucrats in Washington. Washington, he said, has “a myopic, one-size fits all, government knows best attitude.”

“The closer government is to the people, the better it is. I’m convinced that the smart people we elect to run this state are smarter than the federal government,” he said.

But a question from one of the audience members about whether or not even state officials could be trusted to do with health care what voters wanted prompted him to say:

“I don’t trust any of the bureaucrats, state or federal, but I would much rather watch the guys in Concord than the guys in Washington.”

Indeed, said Murphy, even if New Hampshire becomes part of the compact, and even if Congress then adopts it and gives states the right to ignore federal health care legislation and design their own systems, vigilence will still be a key.

“I’m not saying it’s going to be all beds roses,” Murphy said. “We have to be vigilent (but) it’s much more a level playing field on a state level than it is on a federal level.”

Carolyn McKinney of the NH Republican Liberty Caucus agreed.

“Washington is so unaccountable to the people,” she said. “We can have a lot more power in Concord than in Washington.”

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