The only new wrinkle in the debate over state regulation of federal health care reform were the 11 yes votes in the room.
Sides for and against the new federal law overseeing health care implementation raised the same arguments they’ve been raising for months. Supporters want the state to control its implementation of federal health care, while opponents argued that Arkansas regulators can wait until the federal courts decide the issue’s constitutionality.
HB 2138 was voted out of a packed House Insurance and Commerce committee room on a party line vote of 11-7. Two representatives who did not vote on Friday cast votes for the bill today: Rep. Keith Ingram (D-West Memphis) and Rep. Bobby Pierce (D-Sheridan). The bill must now pass the full House and State Senate.
"This bill is in the best interest of Arkansans," said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Fred Allen (D-Little Rock).
Former State Rep. Dan Greenberg argued that the committee was rushing to pass "a radical transformation" of the health care system. "It’s going to transform the doctor-patient relationship," Greenberg said.
He also suggested that lawmakers only have to "show progress" on the issue by January 2013. "All that’s required is that we have to be on track," Greenberg said.
Ray Handley, President of the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care and a former Hewlett Packard executive who helped build health insurance exchanges in other states, said that the insurance exchanges that HB 2138 would begin planning for will help consumers.
"The best analogy I’ve seen – they are for insurance what Travelocity is for plane tickets," Handley said. "If done right, this will let the consumer log on [and] shop for comparisons."
Glen Gallas, a small businessman from Hot Springs, TEA Party activist and former GOP Congressional candidate, said that he had a "definite and vested interest" in the issue.
"I think as legislators it’s fundamentally wrong to pass a law that doesn’t have details worked out," Gallas said. "We remember what happened to a sitting senator who voted against the citizens and voted against the will of the people on health care."
Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford said, "All of this political drama is about the federal bill that doesn’t have anything to do with this. What we have to do to take care of our people is that we have to demonstrate that we can do the planning process."
Rep. Allen spoke to Talk Business after the meeting about his plans for moving the bill forward in this video.