Health Care Compact Still Alive in State Senate

State Senators still face a vote this week on a “health care compact,” after the Republican sponsoring the measure refused to put it aside for the summer.

Senator Mae Beavers says the state needs to pass the measure, so Tennessee can join with other states to take charge of its own health care policy – that’s if Congress decides the federal government no longer wants the responsibility.

Under a “compact” – if the U.S. government agrees – states could take over spending the federal health care money and make their own health care regulations, says Beavers.

Senator Andy Berke, a Chattanooga Democrat, read the cost of the bill and said it forecasts an additional expense of $1 billion to the feds and the transfer of some $11 billion to the state.

“I would consider those fairly major fiscal impacts. And yet in the House this particular bill is deferred ’til 2012. Is there a particular reason why we’re in a rush to pass this bill?”

Berke’s question drew a quick response from Beavers, who wanted to move the bill despite reluctance in the House.

“They can address it in January of 2012. But I think it would be good if we could go ahead and pass this tonight, and I think it makes a statement.”

Other Senators talked her into putting it off until Wednesday.

The bill is a piece of “model legislation” being considered by several states this year. Tennessee would reportedly be the second state to pass it – and no one is sure how Congress will react to being asked to hand over Medicare money to states.

The bill is SB 326 Beavers/HB 369 White, health care compact.

“Compacts” are agreements between states on issues like which states get what kind of nuclear waste, and how states split up water resources from a river that flows through both states.

Beavers’ argument is that Congress would allow states – acting in a ‘compact’ – to take charge of their own health care policy. First the states – plural, nobody thinks one state can swing the argument – ask Congress to hand over the money.

Or, as Beavers says:

“We could decide, should Congress consent to this, how to control our own health care money. We could draw down that money from Washington, and make our own regulations regarding health care.”

This is the fiscal note for Beavers’ Health Care Compact bill.

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