Louisiana grassroots activists join national movement to promote unique approach to reform

Lafayette-based free market activists have asked House Speaker Jim Tucker and other state lawmakers to help set up an interstate compact that would negate the federal health care law. With the state legislature going back into session this April, Louisiana is strategically positioned to advance an innovative, but underutilized constitutional mechanism, proponents point out.

Health Care Compacts would insulate participants from the insurance mandates included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, say policy specialists with the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). The compacts are built around agreements between two or more states and must secure congressional approval.

If approved, compacts would enable states to directly confront ObamaCare and could be used as a shield against federal overreach in the future, says Mario Loyola, director of TPPF’s Center for Tenth Amendment Studies. However, it was imperative that states move beyond filing to actually enacting the legislation, he said in an interview.

“We have not yet reached a critical mass on filings,” he observed. “But now is the time to move on this and get the laws enacted at the state level. It could become a compelling campaign issue in 2012. The question is do you want Washington D.C. to decide everything, which it can’t do, since its programs are heading toward catastrophic bankruptcy? Or, do you want the states to control this in a rational way?”

HCC’s would shift the responsibility and authority for regulating health care away from the federal government back to state officials, according to the Health Care Compact Alliance (HCCA), an organization devoted to offering Americans more influence over health care decisions.

“Choice is the operative word here,” Monica Scott, a local coordinator for the Acadiana Patriots, said in an interview. “We should be the ones who decide at the local level how to direct health care policy. The idea of forcing someone to buy insurance whether they want to or not to me is unconstitutional.”

The objective is to have legislation placed on the agenda by April 10.

Scott said she has good reason to believe Speaker Tucker (R-Terrytown) will be supportive. In the upper chamber, Sen. Elbert Guillory (D-Opelousas), has already expressed strong support for the concept.

“Everyone agrees that health care as presently structured is a failure,” he said.  “But the Congress only replaced failure with another failure.  We’re going to pass a law limiting and directing how health care delivery will be organized in the State of Louisiana, returning power to the people and their doctors.  That law is the Health Care Compact.”

In January, Scott, the Acadiana coordinator, represented Louisiana activists at an HCC Alliance meeting in Houston where organizers presented the actual compact language.

Activists from Texas, Colorado, Missouri, Florida, Minnesota, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Arizona, Virginia, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Connecticut and Michigan also participated in the session. Compact proponents have said they would need over 20 states involved to place sufficient pressure on Washington D.C.

Unlike other efforts, HCCs would also have the capacity to cancel out the individual mandate of ObamaCare. Federal courts have ruled that congressionally approved interstate compacts are the equivalent of federal law. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. Steel v. Multistate Tax Commission established that interstate compacts could be used to increase the sovereign powers of each state relative to the federal government.

There is a long history here.

The U.S. Constitution specifically provides for compacts under Article One Section 10, which reads:  “No State shall, without the Consent of Congress … enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State.” The courts have broadly interpreted this provision to allow for any activity that does not infringe on the national government’s authority.

Over 200 compacts are now in force including The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority.

Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be reached at kmooney@pelicanpolicy.org. Follow him on Twitter.