One Size Does Not Fit All
Compacts empower states to decide health issues
When our nation takes on a difficult task, the most vital question to ask is, "Who decides?" Today we see a great deal of mistrust in our government. The issue of statesmanship is often sacrificed during a critical political debate where it's more important to score points than to really solve problems. This is particularly true in emotional debates over health care.
For decades, we as Texans have watched both parties in Congress pass law after law to empower the federal government more and more. We are told that Washington, D.C., knows best, be it in how to protect the environment, how to promote the economy, or even what kind of a light bulb we must buy. It's even been said that our federal income tax code now has more pages than the Bible.
The same sorry pattern has now been pushed into the debate over our health care system. We have a situation that is out of control — health care delivery that is too complex, too bureaucratic and too centralized. The primary relationship has shifted from doctor-patient to bureaucrat-beneficiary, and the patients and taxpayers are paying the price.
The president rightly identified health care as a problem that needs to be fixed. But the lobby-soaked solution that Congress enacted now makes the system more complex, more bureaucratic and more centralized. Why are more health care decisions now dictated from Washington, D.C., than ever before?
No wonder the Texas Legislature recently joined more than a dozen other states to introduce and pass the Health Care Compact. And that's why we should be excited that Gov. Rick Perry joined our fight and signed the Compact into law earlier this month.
The Health Care Compact is a local effort to change the way health care decisions are made. We need to get the federal government out of health care regulation and move decision-making authority for Texas health care back home to Texans. We can do that by joining with other states in an interstate compact that moves responsibility and authority for health care from Washington to the states.
Interstate compacts are not a radical idea, but that doesn't stop some on the radical left from trying to misrepresent our intentions. More than 200 compacts are currently in operation, covering areas as diverse as water rights, life insurance, juvenile runaways and driver's licenses, to name a few. These are rights given to us in the U.S. Constitution, simple tools to allow states to solve problems together.
Recently I was in Colorado and visited with an employee of Colorado's Wildlife Department. She was measuring the velocity of a river, so I took a moment and questioned why one of the reservoirs was lower than usual. She explained that a certain amount of water must move down river because of the Rio Grande Compact, a compact agreed upon in 1938 between Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. It was an example of how compacts can impact our lives, without much fanfare or Washington rhetoric.
Let's remember that the Health Care Compact does not speak directly to any particular health care policy. It's not a path to take away anyone's care or destroy anyone's safety net. Instead of being a threat to the safety net we hear about, a compact could allow states a way to experiment, exchange ideas and protect and provide for health care obligations far into the 21st century.
If states want to set up health care exchanges, they go at their own pace. If they want to increase the availability of private insurance through subsidies or supplemental payments, they can do that as well. If they want to establish a single-payer system, they can go in that direction, too.
The compact idea is a diverse set of solutions to help us face a complex problem. It begins with the notion that one size does not fit all. It solves the problem by putting states, instead of Washington, in charge of how to best deliver health care options. Who decides? We do.
In this time of epic budget battles in Washington, it's appealing to know that under a Health Care Compact, we'd convert all federal health care dollars to a consolidated funding stream to be managed by the states. Texans would no longer send health care dollars to Washington, to later see only a fraction of that money returned, and with strings attached. The Health Care Compact gives Texans the power to set up the type of health care system that is best for Texans. We'll tailor our health care policies to specifically what is needed right here, right now, in our own state, without asking permission from federal agencies.
Thankfully, the Texas Legislature is putting the health care needs of our state first. We are the fourth state to sign a Health Care Compact into law, and it's expected that more states will follow our lead.
We must move away from the push for centralized planning and control of health care. In a time when our federal government is borrowing about half of every dollar it spends, it's time for the states to step in with solutions. Let's try something different and allow crucial policy decisions to be made closer to home. That's why we need a Health Care Compact. Let's put our faith in Texans to deliver the best health care solutions, instead of continuing to cower in the shadows of a struggling federal bureaucracy.
Kolkhorst, a Republican from Brenham, represents state House District 13.
Read this article on the Houston Chronicle website