JEFFERSON CITY — One Missouri representative has sponsored legislation that would give Missouri residents a choice when it comes to a national health care reform bill.
Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, pre-filed a bill Dec. 1 that, if approved by voters, would effectively put a halt on any national health care legislation. Davis said her intent was to give voters a way to protect themselves.
"We (Missourians) don't like it when people try to take away our freedom," Davis said. "We will maintain the right to purchase health care however we chose. This national health care debate is not about health care as much as it is about redistribution of the wealth. This resolution allows voters to say don't redistribute our wealth here in Missouri."
Davis' bill would allow people to purchase insurance from whomever they want and would also protect against penalties for not having insurance.
But the measure to preserve the status quo might be unconstitutional.
If Davis' bill passes both houses of the Missouri legislature, residents would not have the opportunity to vote on the measure until November 2010 — presumably after a federal health care bill will have passed.
"This attempts to annul or invalidate any federal provision to require people to buy health insurance," said Greg Casey, a constitutional law professor at MU. "It's unconstitutional based on the supremacy clause."
The supremacy clause, in Article 6, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, keeps states from encroaching on the federal government's powers.
"If there's a conflict between federal and state law, state law falls," Casey said.
"A state can't, on its own, invalidate federal law," Casey said.
But Davis pointed to the 10th Amendment, which reserves powers not granted to the federal government by the constitution to state governments or the people, as justification for legality.
"There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution whatsoever that constitutionally authorizes this national monster to encroach on the way we do health care in Missouri," Davis said.
Rep. Don Calloway, D-St. Louis, a civil litigation attorney with a specialization in constitutional rights cases, said the 10th Amendment merely grants powers to states that are not reserved by the federal government. According to him, it "doesn't give states the right to effectively block or nullify" federal law.
The crux of the idea — a state government versus federal government power struggle — is one that might also sharply divide Democrats and Republicans in Missouri.
"I would be in favor of having the state make decisions on health care and not the federal government," said Rep. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, a family physician and chair of the House Healthcare Transformation Committee.
Columbia Democrat Mary Still, who serves on the House's Special Standing Committee on Health Insurance said, "No. 1, they (Republicans) don't want to expand health care options, so however that resolution is worded, I'm sure it would help them prevent the extension of health care options."
"They've used everything possible: scare tactics, bad information and now this to prevent progress," Still added. "The public has clearly said they want change; they want health care options. It's good for people, good for the country and good for the economy."
Similar legislation to what Davis proposed is being sponsored by Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, in the Missouri Senate.