The proposed measure would ban state agencies from
helping carry out President Barack Obama's signature healthcare
reform law and prevent federal money flowing through state coffers
from being spent on it, said Republican state Senator Tom Davis.
The legislation would give South Carolina oversight of insurance
rates offered through its federal exchange and require healthcare
navigators, which help people sign up for the healthcare benefits,
to be licensed by the state, said Davis, who chairs the committee
drafting the measure.
The state's 2014 legislative session opens on Tuesday.
"Even though the federal government may pass a law, and even though
that law may be constitutional, that doesn't mean that the federal
government can direct the state to spend state dollars to implement
it," he said. "States aren't simply political subdivisions of the
Six states have barred their employees from helping implement the
law known as Obamacare, said Richard Cauchi, healthcare program
director for the nonpartisan National Conference of State
At least eight states, including two that support the healthcare
reforms, have regulated navigators, he added.
The new laws are mostly legally untested, Cauchi said.
"Florida and Ohio have said: 'We will have nothing to do with this
law; we won't make it workable,'" he said. "At what point does state
inaction constitute interference with a federal law?"
Last fall, a federal judge blocked Tennessee's "emergency rule,"
which would have fined healthcare navigators for helping people find
insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
In December, Georgia lawmakers said they would follow South
Carolina's lead this year in trying to prevent state agencies from
taking part in Obamacare. With many legislatures convening this
month, it is too soon to tell what other states will consider new
obstacles to the law, Cauchi said.
Last year, South Carolina's House of Representatives passed
legislation to nullify Obamacare, but Davis said that effort clearly
would not have passed legal muster.
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The state senator said he believed the rewritten bill, which he
expects to be taken up for debate in a few weeks, would have teeth.
Opponents of the federal law are looking to South Carolina for a
"template, something that other states can follow," Davis said.
"It's like we're holding the fort until we can get people in
Congress that can repeal or replace it."
He said he expected Democratic opposition and would need almost
every Senate Republican's vote to stop a filibuster.
Critics of the South Carolina measure said the new attack on the
Affordable Care Act was political theater.
"It is going to hurt people being able to access the marketplace
because some of the navigator teams will pull out," said Brett
Bursey, director of the South Carolina Progressive Network, a
nonprofit coalition of liberal groups.
If the measure becomes law, it probably will face legal challenges
from opponents, said Gibbs Knotts, chairman of the political science
department at the College of Charleston.
"It's blocking access to something provided by the federal
government," Knotts said. "There's all sorts of unfunded (federal)
mandates that the states have to play a role in."
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Lisa Von
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