Much Sound And Fury on Health Care
No one should be surprised. Republicans take control of the North Carolina General Assembly; the first significant piece of legislation calls for the state to join 26 other states in attempting to block a requirement of the federal health care reform law that all citizens carry health care insurance.
As House members debated the legislation, Republicans and Democrats made various claims about the bill's meaning.
House Majority Leader Paul "Skip" Stam, a Wake County Republican, said it was about sending a message on personal responsibility.
"This bill is somewhat about what you think about health care," Stam said. "It's somewhat about what you think about government. But it is more what you think about yourself. Are you a citizen or a child?"
The House's new minority leader, former House Speaker Joe Hackney, an Orange County Democrat, countered that the legislation was about the idea that it is permissible to foist your health care costs onto someone else.
"Don't tell me you're not going to have any medical costs. This is not hardware, this is not furniture, this is not a house. This is medical care, and you are going to purchase it whether you want to or not," Hackney said.
In reality, the legislation and the debate were about neither.
To borrow from the old bard, this was sound and fury signifying nothing. It was political theater.
Just a day before the House passed its bill, a Florida judge had ruled in favor of the 26 states that the House Republicans seek to join in fighting against the health care reform law. The judge concluded that the entire law was unconstitutional
Earlier, another federal judge ruled against the individual insurance mandate; meanwhile, two other federal judges ruled that the law is constitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately decide who is right.
And the outcome won't hinge on whether North Carolina joins any lawsuit or passes some state law that would become moot, one way or the other, once the nation's high court makes its ruling.
But given two years of overblown rhetoric about what the federal law means and what it will do, the new Republican majority in the legislature would have disappointed a chunk of its hard-core supporters had it done anything else.
Everyone had seen the rallies and town halls and signs and lobbyist-sponsored buses. Government, keep your hands off my Medicare, my Tricare, my Medicaid, my State Health Plan, my Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Soon the state Senate will take its whack at the bill. We'll hear about nanny states and mandates, responsibility and irresponsibility. Some elderly legislator whose health care is paid for by Medicare might even stand up, while gazing at the taxpayer-provided doctor-of-the-day at the legislature, to passionately warn about the dangers of socialized medicine.
Then maybe state lawmakers can get back to considering state policy and state law, and stop with the meaningless beating-about.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at email@example.com.
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