Dr. Mike Ritze, a Broken Arrow Republican and one of only two physicians serving in the state House of Representatives, says he is against any proposal to create the equivalent of a health exchange in Oklahoma, regardless of whether or not the state rejects a $54 million federal grant. And, House Democrats are disappointed by what they term a “Fallin flip-flop.”
Governor Mary Fallin’s decision to reject a federal grant to finance creation of a state health exchange, announced yesterday, was supported by Republican legislative leaders. The state leaders say they intend to build an insurance information network using taxpayer and private sector dollars, to avoid “entanglement” with the mandates of the new federal law.
House Democrats on Thursday assailed Fallin’s decision from the other end of the spectrum, recalling that two weeks ago Fallin and House Speaker Kris Steele described conservative critics of the exchange “confused or misinformed”.
In a statement, Democratic House Leader Scott Inman of DelCity, speaking on behalf of his caucus, commented, “Now with Gov. Fallin’s apparent reversal and flip-flop on the issue, she is admitting that those critics were right and perhaps she and Speaker Steele were the ones misinformed.”
In comments provided to CapitolBeatOK Friday morning (April 15), Dr. Ritze was critical of Governor Fallin for different reasons. In Fallin’s comments and those of others at yesterday’s press conference, a distinction was made between the federal exchange of “ObamaCare” and Oklahoma’s information network, part of legislation emerging in coming days from the state House.
Ritze said, “As the House author of the state question that Oklahomans passed last November to opt-out of ObamaCare, I feel this new exchange proposal is the same old path to socialized medicine. The free market can adopt this approach and we do not need any government involvement with an exchange, especially at the cost of one million state dollars that we do not have.”
Further, Ritze contended, the Utah program pointed to as a less expensive and more palatable version of the exchange, has “failed” along more expensive programs in Massachusetts, Oregon and Tennessee. Ritze said he believes lawmakers must open health care to “free market forces.”
With state Sen. Bill Brown of Broken Arrow, also a Republican, Ritze has advocated Senate Bill 57, a measure designed, he said, “to open up the free market of health care to make buying health care insurance the same as purchasing homeowner’s or car insurance. Under that measure, Oklahoma would enter compacts to allow citizens to shop for insurance across state lines.
“There are more than 100 health care companies available, but we are federally mandated and restricted to only purchase from four to six in Oklahoma. Japan, in contrast, has more than 5,000 health care insurance companies to choose from. Increased competition will lead to lower prices and better products.”
Additionally, Ritze is the author of House Bill 1276, a proposal that would in Oklahoma nullify the new federal law and allow felony charges against anyone attempting to enforce it.
When he unveiled that measure early this year, Ritze said the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution “defines the total scope of federal powers “as being those which have been delegated by the people of the several states to the federal government, and all powers not delegated to the federal government in the Constitution of the United States are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people themselves.”
Ritze shares the views of legal analysts who have argued the federal health care law is constitutionally infirm for reasons broader than the individual mandate to purchase insurance, the focus of most legal briefs against what is called “ObamaCare” by critics.
He said the enhanced federal powers enacted through the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” and the “Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010” are “nowhere expressly granted by the United States Constitution and interferes with the right of the people of the State of Oklahoma to regulate health care as they see fit.”
Ritze is also the author of the health compact legislation, encouraging creation of voluntary agreements in and among states as a health care governance reform.