EDITORIAL: Yes, there's a 10th Amendment

Feb. 06, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

A number of governors and state legislators across the country have a renewed interest the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — which addresses state sovereignty — thanks to ObamaCare.

North Carolina, in fact, may be about to join other states in exercising the unique rights provided in this important part of the Bill of Rights.

As the Founding Fathers were writing the Constitution, they were keenly aware of how the all-powerful British government had controlled those who had come to this new land. In order to ensure that the U.S. government would have limited powers, the Bill of Rights — the first 10 amendments to the Constitution — was drafted and then ratified on Dec. 15, 1791. The important 10th Amendment reads: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

As state lawmakers are finding out, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, fails to pass several smell tests. In response, some states are asserting their rights under the 10th Amendment to protect the well-being of their respective residents.

One of the main promises made by those selling ObamaCare was that it would reduce the cost of health care, including health insurance. Now, even many of those who supported the law are acknowledging that insurance premiums are going to rise. Dr. Jonathan Gruber, Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, conducted studies for the states of Colorado, Minnesota and Wisconsin. In those states, he forecasts that under ObamaCare, premiums will rise from 10 to 30 percent for those not in group coverage. An actuarial firm has predicted that non-group premiums in Ohio will jump by 55 to 85 percent. Analyses sponsored by other states have reached essentially the same conclusions.

State governments had until Dec. 14, 2012, to decide whether they would establish their own health-insurance exchanges. State residents would be able to purchase private health insurance through these exchanges if they don’t have coverage by employers. At last count, only a few states have moved to set up exchanges. A small group of states may set up “hybrid” exchanges, which means that they will partner with the federal government to operate the system. In essence, states that establish these exchanges serve as agents of the federal government and become further obligated to toe the line on federal policies and regulations that the public has already found flawed. When a state refuses to create an exchange, the federal government takes over this expensive operation. It is understandable that state officials might welcome the feds taking over this high-priced, unpopular task.

In the last few days, some North Carolina lawmakers have let it be known that they want to also distance state residents from ObamaCare, scheduled to be fully implemented by 2014. Mike Hager, a Republican who represents Burke and Rutherford counties, has been outspoken in promoting legislation that would take the state out of the health insurance exchange business. Hager has been quoted as saying, “I think at some point, we’ve got to draw the line. The 10th Amendment is in the Constitution, and we need to exercise our rights under the Constitution.”

A bill that would clearly “draw the line” on establishing a health care exchange is expected to move quickly through the North Carolina legislature. The governor will then have a chance to exercise his rights under the 10th Amendment.

We will await this important outcome.