Oklahoma Legislators Target Obamacare

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A couple of Broken Arrow Republican legislators should be reminded that President Barack Obama has been reelected president and the legality of his signature legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, has so far been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But here in Oklahoma, those basic facts can get into the way of scoring political points in opposing so-called Obamacare with claims that are nothing more than empty and, at this point, extremely tired rhetoric.

State Rep. Mike Ritze has introduced House Bill 1021 that he claims “will nullify the provisions of Obamacare in Oklahoma.” State Sen. Nathan Dahm has introduced Senate Bill 203 as companion legislature. A press release about the bills quotes Dahm this way:

Depriving citizens of the right to make their own choices about health care runs contrary to American ideals. If we want a health care system that is innovative, efficient, and controls costs, we need to allow the free market to work. Health care is not a right, it is an enterprise, and it works best with fewer market distortions and the incentive to improve the services it offers customers. Taking this enterprise and turning it into a government bureaucracy will remove the incentive for advancements in American health care, just as it has everywhere else this experiment has been tried.

How can Obamacare run contrary to American ideals when the president was convincingly reelected? Aren’t American ideals often expressed and shaped through voting? I also wonder how many physicians would agree with Dahm that “health care is not a right, it is an enterprise . . . “ It’s dehumanizing to reduce the purpose of medical treatment solely to the profit motive. Is it just all about “business” when a child becomes extremely sick and needs medical treatment? If the child’s parents don’t have the money for medical care, then what? Health care IS a basic human right that embodies our shared humanity.

HB 1021, which contains the initial language of the legislation, claims that the Affordable Care Act is not “authorized by the Constitution of the United States and violate its true meaning and intent as given by the founders and ratifiers.” Of course, there are a lot of laws, policies and government programs that were not specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. The lack of specificity was exactly the point.

The bill also refers, of course, to the Tenth Amendment, which concerns states’ rights, and is often twisted by extremists on the right to mean that states can pretty much do what they want without any federal interference. Each state, under their thinking, is basically its own country.

Perhaps, the weirdest parts of the bill are the provisions meting out punishments for anyone who practices Obamacare in Oklahoma. Here are those provisions:

Any official, agent, or employee of the United States government or any employee of a corporation providing services to the United States government that enforces or attempts to enforce an act, order, law, statute, rule or regulation of the government of the United States in violation of this act shall be guilty of a felony and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not exceeding Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or a term of imprisonment not exceeding five (5) years, or both.

Any public officer or employee of the State of Oklahoma that enforces or attempts to enforce an act, order, law, statute, rule, or regulation of the government of the United States in violation of this act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding two (2) years, or by a fine not exceeding One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or both such fine and imprisonment.

So we’re going to actually imprison people here in Oklahoma that follow federal rules about basic health care? Why didn’t Ritze and Dahm just throw in Medicare and Medicaid as well?

The bill is another kooky, frivolous attempt to make yet another statement against the president and Obamacare, upheld by the nation’s highest court last year.