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Legislature Should Slow Down, Be Careful - Senator Tom Harden

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State Senator Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach), Vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Health, cautioned for prudence when asked How California Should Respond if Part or All of ACA is Struck Down.

If, as several experts anticipate, the Supreme Court strikes down some or all of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, California will find itself in the untenable position of having promised services it cannot provide without federal funding.

California policymakers, in a rush to lead the nation in implementation, have given little attention to how California will fund the ACA, should it fail the constitutional sniff test. The California Health Benefit Exchange was created in 2010, operating under the assumption that massive federal subsidies will be available for low and middle income earners needing assistance to afford health coverage offered.

It is my belief the Democratic leadership will fully implement legislation concerning the ACA regardless of the court’s decision. As vice chair of the Senate Health Committee, I have heard hours of testimony on legislation seeking to implement facets of the ACA. These measures are irresponsibly moved forward, often in the absence of definitive federal guidance, and without any plan to unwind the implementation should the court reject the ACA.

Just last week a bill dealing with Medi-Cal eligibility was amended to include language stating that it “is the intent of the Legislature to ensure full implementation of the Affordable Care Act … It is further the intent of the Legislature to enact into state law any provision of the Affordable Care Act that may be struck down by the United States Supreme Court and that is necessary to ensure all Californians receive the full promise of the act.”

Previous attempts by some California legislators to move in the direction of single-payer health care have been largely rejected due to the high price tag. Leveraging the ACA as cover to expand state-run health care, the Legislature is moving forward on programs we frankly can’t afford on our own. It appears the Legislature will continue on this path, without a plan in place for funding, regardless of the court’s decision.

The Legislature should slow down and proceed more cautiously on implementation. I intend to introduce legislation that would give the exchange 90 days to submit a plan documenting how it is going to continue operating if the ACA is struck down. In essence, the exchange board will have 90 days to share its “Plan B” — including alternate sources of financing — or implementation grinds to a halt.

ACA implementation has put California on a collision course where no one wins — not the medical community, the people in need of health care or the taxpayers. Let’s get back on the rails.

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