Tennessee legislature moves to block state employees from implementing Obamacare

Mike Maharrey Communications Director, The Tenth Amendment Center
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Tennessee state lawmakers have decided to step up and take on Obamacare in the Volunteer State.

The U.S. House of Representatives tried to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act several times last year, and we’ve seen various congressional moves to repeal it. But in the current political climate, there is no way to stop implementation of Obamacare through action in Washington D.C.

In the meantime, the federal bureaucracy continues to move full speed ahead implementing President Obama’s signature legislation. The disastrous rollout, including a the website meltdown and millions of Americans losing insurance they wanted to keep, raised Americans’ skepticism, but it has not slowed the administration’s relentless push to intertwine the Affordable Care Act into the fabric of American life.

Realizing somebody needs to take action now, before it becomes too late, Tennessee state Senator Mae Beavers and Representative Mark Pody have introduced a bill that could ultimately gut Obamacare in the Volunteer State.

Based on similar legislation already introduced in Georgia (HB707) and model legislation drafted by the Tenth Amendment Center, the bill would prohibit any cooperation by the state or its agencies in implementing or administering the federal health care program:

No powers, assets, employees, agents or contractors of the state, including any institution under control of the University of Tennessee or the Tennessee board of regents, or any political subdivision, municipality or other local government entity shall be used to assist in implementing the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, or any subsequent federal amendment to such act.

The bill would also permanently bar Tennessee from setting up a state-run insurance exchange, prohibit any state or state subdivision from purchasing insurance from an exchange set up by a non-profit and block the state from conducting involuntary home inspections under the act.

Previous bills like the one introduced last year in South Carolina have raised legal issues and sparked debate centering on the doctrine of nullification. Like the Georgia bill, the Tennessee legislation side-steps this issue. It does not actively block the federal government from implementing the health care plan, but it does stop the state from assisting in any way.

“Essentially, this bill tells the feds if they want to run a health care system, they can do it themselves,” Tenth Amendment Center executive director Michael Boldin said. “The truth is, they can’t, and that’s the power of this bill. If enough states refuse to help, it will effectively repeal the bill. We don’t need Congress’ help.”

The legislation rests on a legal foundation known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. That the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program is well-established in the law. Printz v. U.S. serves as the cornerstone case:

“The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policymaking is involved, and no case-by case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.”

In fact, South Carolina state Sen. Tom Davis reportedly plans to amend the Palmetto State bill with language following the same principle, and West Virginia Rep. Eric Householder has also introduced similar legislation. Boldin says he expects other state to follow their lead.

“Americans have gotten their first taste of Obamacare, and I think they are ready to spit it out,” he said. “Congress isn’t ever going to get rid of it. They don’t get rid of things up there. If we wait for D.C. to act, we’re stuck with this debacle forever. It’s up to the states, and I think they are going to step up to the plate.”