Kansas Liberty: 27 October 2009
Amendment would protect state residents from federal penalties and allow doctor-patient choice.
State lawmakers push to preserve Kansans' right to decide on health care
Kansas House and Senate Republicans are joining together to promote an amendment that they say protects Kansans from any government-managed health-care reform that might come out of the U.S. Congress.
According to backers, legislators in the House and the Senate will be introducing concurrent resolutions in each chamber during the 2010 session.
Proponents of the resolution, the Health Care Freedom Amendment, claim the amendment is necessary to preserve the state’s constitutional rights, as well as personal freedom and liberty for Kansans.
The amendment would need to gain the approval of two-thirds of both the House and Senate for it to be placed on the ballot for Kansans to consider in 2010.
If the measure were approved, the constitutional amendment would give Kansans the ability to make their own decision whether to participate in any health-care systems passed by the federal government.
“The federal government does not have the ability to manage health care,” said Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, in a news release. “The affected individuals are in the best position to decide what health care they need because one size does not fit all.”
Landwehr, chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, and Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, assistant majority leader, will be championing the effort on the House side while Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, will be promoting the measure in the Senate.
Pilcher-Cook is publisher of Kansas Liberty.
Proponents of the amendment held several news conferences to jump-start their efforts.
Democratic leaders in Washington, D.C., are working to consolidate the reform plan that passed out of the Senate Finance Committee with a more liberal version of reform passed out of the House.
The Democratic plan will contain provisions that increase government mandates on the health-care system and include fines and tax penalties for those individuals and businesses not complying with the federal mandates.
Democrats plan to cut hundreds of billions of dollars of Medicare funding, the government insurance program that covers senior citizens, while expanding coverage for Medicaid, the program that covers the poor and disabled.
The reform initiative that passed out of the U.S. Senate Finance committee did not include a public insurance option, but according to reports from Washington, Democrats are pushing to include the initiative in the final version.
A statement released by backers on the Health Care Freedom Amendment said that if the amendment fails and Kansans are forced to comply with federal reform, “there would be no constitutional protections to ensure that the citizens, employers, and health care providers of Kansas are protected from mandatory enrollment or participation in a government-managed healthcare system.”
The idea to push for a state exemption is not unique to Kansas. Arizona successfully gained the necessary support in its Legislature and will have a similar amendment added onto the 2010 ballot for the citizens of Arizona to consider.
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons has been instrumental in promoting these amendments throughout the United States.
Dr. George Watson, president-elect of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and Wichita resident, has assisted in tweaking the language of the Kansas amendment.
Watson said there are at least 14 other states well along in the process of pushing for these amendments.
“It is time we stand up for our constitutional rights rather than letting government bureaucrats take them one by one,” Watson told Kansas Liberty.
Watson argued that the rising costs of health care — one of the core problems with the current health-care system — has been created by government interference, and that more interference would only worsen the situation.
Watson said that extracting government and insurance interference from doctor-patient relationships would allow for doctors and their patients to make whatever decisions they want individually regarding health care, based on their needs and wants, instead of what is mandated by the government.
The changes would ultimately dramatically decrease the cost of health care, he said.
“Our government has declared war on the citizens and on the medical doctors and this is a war that we have to win,” Watson said.
The Kansas Insurance Department has yet to take a stance on the amendment. Bob Hanson, public information officer with the Kansas Insurance Department, said the agency would be watching the legislation as it develops in the Kansas Legislature.
“Currently at this time it is too early to comment,” Hanson told Kansas Liberty. Hanson said he believed the amendment did signal the desire for bipartisan involvement in reform at the state and national levels.
The amendment has 19 supporters in the House, including Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, and Majority Leader Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell. There are 11 supporters on the Senate side, including Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, chair of the Public Health and Welfare Committee
Barnett is a candidate for the First Congressional District. Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, is also a First Congressional District candidate and a sponsor of the amendment.
“As a long-serving state senator, I have consistently stood against efforts to socialize our health care,” Huelskamp said in a news release issued this afternoon. “This Amendment is important because we Kansans cannot afford to passively sit by and wait to see what Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and President Obama work out behind closed doors in Washington. Instead, we must proactively stand against this attempt to nationalize one-sixth of the U.S. economy and mandate a government-run plan.”
While Barnett and Huelskamp push for the amendment, fellow committee member Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, said he plans to voice his concerns with the amendment once it is introduced in the Senate.
Haley serves as the ranking minority member of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.
“Obviously I am absolutely very disappointed in this,” Haley told Kansas Liberty. “I will fight any effort to override expanding access to heath care in committee and on the floor.”
Haley said that though he could not speak for the House side, he believed that the amendment would not garner the necessary votes to pass the Senate.
“This shouldn’t get out of committee, and if it does, then we still will not have the constitutional majority to pass this,” Haley said. “Although Republicans dominate both chambers, elected legislators who think first of their constituents comprise the majority.”
Previously on Kansas Liberty
Kansans will have to pay to support health care in state favored by Democrats