AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas House of Representatives is expected to soon vote on joining with other states in a formal agreement called an “interstate compact” related to federal health care programs.
Some conservatives hope it is a constitutional loophole that will remove the federal government from health care decisions in Texas.
Interstate compacts are nothing new. Among the most powerful examples, states around the country have joined together to formally decide how they will disposal of nuclear waste.
“A lot of people say this is a way to nullify Obamacare,” said State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, who is sponsoring the legislation. “It puts us in the driver's seat. It's a governance issue; a lot of people are upset that the government tells us what to do, tells everyone that they have to buy private insurance.”
Kolkhorst downplayed the role the federal health care reform law, “Obamacare,” played in her decision to sponsor the legislation.
“It allows people here in Texas to decide how their health care is administered," she said.
Currently the federal government sends health care dollars to Texas, piece by piece and with strict instructions on how to spend that money.
Under the Kolkhost Plan, the way federal health care money is handled, would change. The federal government would still send federal health care dollars to Texas. However, and the state, not the federal government, could then decide how that money would be spent.
“It's just not going to happen because the Congress is not going to vote it in and the president's not going to sign it,” said State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, who has been a leading advocate in the Texas legislature for the president’s health care plan.
“It's being proposed as the only idea anybody can come up with to counter the Affordable Care Act,” he said.
Both sides agree on the need for reforms to health care. They still don't agree on how to do it. “One thing you can't dispute is that we're on an unsustainable path on spending,” Kolkhorst said.
Another fact most parties agree on the legislature's action likely will not be the final word. There are many continuing challenges in the courts and in the Congress to the federal health care law.