LITTLE ROCK, AR - This week the Arkansas House Committee on Public Health and Welfare will take up a bill aimed at preventing the federal government from requiring Arkansans to get health insurance. A freshman representative from Conway drafted the bill. He says it's what Arkansans tell him they want. But many are skeptical.
Members of the Arkansas House of Representatives may soon get their chance to vote on House Bill 1053 which would keep Arkansans from being penalized for failing to enroll in a health care plan. "It is a symbolic gesture and it is a statement. But it is more than that. If it gets pased it will protect the people of Arkansas," said State Representative David Meeks, (R) Conway. He wrote the bill and knows it has to go through a committee before it can make it to the full House.
When the Public Health Committee meets Tuesday morning, Representative Meeks has to convince a handful of Republicans and a majority of Democrats to support the bill. And he knows he has his work cut out for him. State Representative Linda Tyler, (D) Conway, said she's not crazy about big government either but a mandate might be necessary. Tyler said, "it may just be something that we're going to have to accept as a part of being able to get where we need to be in health care reform."
Tyler chairs the Public Health and Welfare Committee and wants to see what the court system decides about health care reform before passing state legislation. Plus, she worries Meeks' bill would open Arkansas up to lawsuits. "That would be at a cost to our state that we just can't afford right now," she said.
Regardless of whether Representative Meeks' bill passes or not, Arkansas lawmakers must deal with challenges presented by the health care reform law, like shelling out as much as $200 million to treat new Medicare patients.
The Public Health and Welfare Committee meets Tuesday morning to talk about Representative Meeks' bill. If it passes it would go the full state House and then on the Senate. Last week members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted on a measure completely repealing the health care reform law. That measure is not expected to make it past the Democrat-controlled Senate.