The Missouri House advanced legislation Wednesday that would have the state join a multistate health care compact in an effort to supersede the new federal health care law, reflecting many legislators' opposition to Congress' controversial overhaul.
The House voted 103-53 to give first-round approval to the measure, but whether it could override federal policy is questionable. At least one other state would have to join the compact and the agreement would have to be approved by Congress.
Sponsoring Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, said the measure isn't an alternative health care reform law, but rather "government reform." He said state legislatures should govern health care policy because they better understand the needs of their constituents.
"I believe that something as important and intimate as health care policy belongs as close to home as possible," he said. "What I think is wrong is that a mediocre system is forced on all 50 states. This would bill would return the authority to the states to take back the reins of government."
Burlison said the central aim of a multistate compact would be to exempt those states' residents from a federal requirement that they own health insurance. Burlison said Missouri residents rejected that requirement in August, when 71 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of a ballot measure asserting that people cannot be compelled to have health insurance.
Some Democrats said that if Missouri joins the compact - and the federal government allows its creation - the state could end up losing parts of the federal law that consumers favor, such as requiring insurance policies to cover certain procedures aimed at preventing disease.
Rep. Margo McNeil, D-St. Louis County, said the compact would allow states to receive federal health care money without having to abide by the legislative intent attached to those funds.
"This bill basically says, 'Give us the money and we'll do whatever we want with it,'" she said.
Burlison said he could not predict what decisions future legislatures would make with regard to health care policy.
The House must vote once more on the compact legislation before it could go to the Senate, where Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, has sponsored similar legislation.
Health Care Compact is HB423