26 April 2017

Committee action, Apr. 26: HB 245, HB 6

HB 245 by Rep. Frank Hoffman would have home- and community-based providers to not pay or to recoup background check fees from applicants. Hoffman told the House and Welfare Committee that the state believes providers already can recoup fees, but better to exempt them and allow the opportunity to collect fees, if not at the time after employment of the applicant. About half of all applicants fail such checks, so he thought it appropriate to exempt fees to prevent such a burden placed upon agencies that deal with waiver programs.

Without objection, the bill moved favorably.

HB 6 by Rep. Paul Hollis would direct the state to adopt policies to relieve burdensome financial regulatory portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to businesses and individuals. He told the House Insurance Committee of the bill’s consistency with an executive order issued by Pres. Donald Trump, and it likely would mean getting rid of the individual mandate.

Rep. Vincent Pierre asked whether this could be done legally. Chairman Kirk Talbot said anything could be done legally. Hollis said any constitutional challenge could be defended.

Opponents declared that to implement this law would have fewer people insured, without the penalty, and alleged health outcomes would worsen, and said it was too risky constitutionally. It also might create confusion, they argued.

Talbot pointed out the penalty represented a new form of taxation, mandating payment simply for being alive, rather than government imposing a regulation on the action of somebody. He also noted that the Constitution vested powers of this sort in the states. Rep. Mark Abraham argued that the system was broken, and change had to occur for things to improve regardless of problems that could happen as a result of getting rid of penalties. Rep. Greg Cromer said the system already caused confusion and was unstable, so the bill would not make matters worse.

Rep. Edmond Jordan said the impact would not be known given uncertainty of the policy direction nationally. Hollis noted the executive order gave some legitimacy to this move, although Edmond claimed the taxing power of Congress would conflict with that – even though former Pres, Barack Obama had used executive authority not to implement portions of the law in the past, just as Hollis’ bill would permit.

Jordan objected to favorable passage, then the bill was moved favorably by a 9-4 vote, with all Republicans present voting in favor joined by a couple of Democrats while all opposition came from Democrats.

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