A bill set for fast-track passage in the South Carolina Senate in January aims to eliminate Obamacare in the state. The law could become a model for other states fed up with the federal health-care law.
House Bill 3101, titled the “South Carolina Freedom of Health Care Protection Act,” passed the state House of Representatives last April by a 65-34 vote. The bill now heads to the GOP-controlled Senate with special-order priority, setting up the likelihood that South Carolina will become the first state to exempt citizens and businesses from all participation in the Affordable Care Act.
State Sen. Tom Davis, the bill’s sponsor who recently wrapped up study committee hearings for H3101 in Columbia, Charleston and other cities, says that the proposed legislation renders the Affordable Care Act void or inoperable through a handful of provisions.
“It will essentially have five components to it, all of which in my judgment are legal, effective, and within the state’s power to do,” Davis, a Republican from Beaufort, said in an interview.
The bill’s main component prohibits agencies, officers and employees of the state of South Carolina from implementing any provisions of the Affordable Care Act, leaving implementation of the national health-care law entirely in the hands of a federal government that lacks the resources or personnel to carry out the programs it mandates.
This provision, according to Davis, comes from the anti-commandeering doctrine established in case law that says feds can’t compel states to enforce federal laws.
“What the Supreme Court said in Printz v. United States is that states are not merely political subdivisions of the federal government to carry out what the federal government does; they are sovereign entities,” Davis said. “Congress can pass laws, but it cannot compel the states to utilize either their treasury or personnel to implement those federal laws.”
Additional provisions of H3101 further neuter the Affordable Care Act by outlawing state exchanges, issuing tax deductions to individuals equal to the tax penalties levied by the federal government, and directing the state attorney general to sue over whimsical enforcement of the law. Taken together, the provisions effectively repeal the federal law for the people of South Carolina.
Davis adds that lawmakers in Columbia are considering two additional provisions: one that outlaws Medicaid expansion, and another that suspends the licenses of insurers who receive federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
Given the sizable majority of Republicans in the South Carolina Senate — along with moderate Democrats who may support the bill out of fear of voter wrath — H3101 is likely to pass in short order and be signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley, who has led the Palmetto State’s resistance against nationalized health care.
With just a month to go before the fireworks begin, political forces on the left and right are gathering for battle. On one side are local activists, including the Greenville, Myrtle Beach and Laurens County Tea Party groups, which are mobilizing the grass roots to meet at the Capitol in January to support the bill.
On the other side are opponents of H3101, whose main efforts consist of calling lawmakers racists and questioning the authority of states to oppose federal laws. Such attacks are likely to ring hollow in light of the dozens of state and local governments that have recently rejected federal marijuana laws, the Real ID Act, provisions of National Defense Authorization Act, federal gun control, and even U.S. immigration law. State and local governments governed from both sides of the political spectrum are increasingly flexing their Tenth Amendment muscles against perceived federal overreach.
With the federal health law’s popularity plummeting nationwide, Obamacare supporters have reason to be concerned. If South Carolina’s Freedom of Health Care Protection Act becomes law, the bill could go viral and spread to other states.
Bruce Parker is a freelance reporter and columnist specializing in state news and policy.