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Snowe’s War On States’ Rights In The Health Care Debate

For a Republican, Olympia Snowe seems to have a real disdain for states’ rights when it comes to health care reform. At every turn she has been trying to take power away from the states and give it to the federal government. She has been one of the biggest supporters of the “national plans” strongly favored by the health insurance lobby. This would allow insurance companies to sell “national plans” in any state, and these plans would be exempt by federal law from needing to meet state regulations about coverage. Effectively, Snowe wants to completely gut the health insurance consumer protections put in to place by the state legislatures.

Snowe voted against Cantwell’s amendment which would allow states to create a “basic health plan” for people making between 133%-200% of FPL, if the state wanted to. The state legislatures would need to pass a law to create a “basic health plan,” and the federal government would only let them if they could prove it would provide better or equal quality care. It would also need to save both the federal government and the new enrollees money to be approved for funding. Snowe voted against letting states experiment with a plan that would save the federal government serious money. Denying the states the right to pursue a different, cheaper strategy for helping to provide health insurance seems like an insane violation of states’ rights, fiscal conservatism, and basic logic.

Snowe, shockingly, also opposes the public option opt-in and the state-based public option. This is really perplexing because Snowe claims to support the idea of a national trigger. The idea if the insurance companies don’t meet some criteria it would then cause the public option to be available in that state.

For all practical purposes, a national public option with a state opt-in clause is the same as a trigger. Under both scenarios, the public option will not be available on “day one.” The only difference is who is setting the criteria for the trigger. With Snowe’s trigger it is the federal government telling states when the conditions are meet to justify the addition of a public option. With the opt-in, individual state legislatures have the power to set their own “trigger” criteria. The states get to decide when and if the insurance companies have failed and the market now needs a public option. Snowe does not want the states to have that right.

Secondly, her opposition to the idea of state-based public options is a massive federal government encroachment into state matters. As Sen. Bingaman has pointed out states already have the power to set up public plans if they want to. There is nothing currently stopping states from creating a public plan today. To say your are against state-based public options must mean you want to strip existing rights from the states.

It is always shocking to me how Republicans talk a good game about states’ rights, but are always trying to strip states of power at the behest of powerful lobbying groups, like the health insurance industry. I guess I should not be surprised that Empress Snowe wants to use the federal government to take power away from the states. If someone else had power, it would infringe on her absolute reign.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at