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Texan Cruz’s proposal for interstate ‘health care compacts’ has gone national


Last week, the House Select Committee on State Sovereignty fielded testimony on legislation seeking to challenge or replace ‘Obamacare.’ One particular set of bills proposes supplanting federal health care programs with an interstate “health care compact” — an idea that has gone national, but whose origin can be traced to former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz (now a Republican U.S. Senate candidate) writing for conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Read The Texas Independent for previous reporting on health care compact legislation.

During the hearing, committee member state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) had an exchange with witness Susanna Dokupil, who identified herself as representing the national Health Care Compact Alliance (HCCA), a 501(c)4 nonprofit. After Martinez Fischer pressed Dokupil on if she was associated with TPPF, she admitted that she is a senior fellow in TPPF’s Center for Tenth Amendment Studies — the division from which sprang the health care compact proposal by Cruz and Center Director Mario Loyola (who also testified during the committee hearing). Dokupil, however, maintained that her testimony on HCCA’s behalf was “completely separate and independent” from her duties for TPPF.

According to HCCA’s website, health care compact legislation is being considered or pushed in some 35 state legislatures. Dokupil said she has testified on bills in Georgia and Montana.

While HCCA’s website reveals little about the individuals behind the organization, an op-ed appeared in the National Review on March 10 that is authored by Houston construction mogul Leo Linbeck III and Sam Adams Alliance CEO Eric O’Keefe, who identify themselves as the vice-chair and chair, respectively, of HCCA.

O’Keefe’s Chicago-based group is linked to several conservative groups and new media organizations, such as American Majority, which helped organize counter-rallies in favor of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and the Franklin Center For Government and Public Integrity.

In January, The Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes wrote an article describing how Cruz’s idea for health care compacts went national:

The compact strategy grew out of talks last summer among a handful of conservatives worried about the growth in federal power, particularly under President [Barack] Obama. They chose health care, given its unpopularity, as the issue on which to draw a new line between federal and state authority. Texas attorney Ted Cruz, a former state solicitor general, suggested the use of a compact. “It’s certainly a new application” of the compact, Cruz told me.

In October, Eric O’Keefe of the Sam Adams Alliance broached the compact strategy with the leaders of Tea Party Patriots, Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin. And in November, they, in turn, took the idea to their national council, gathered in Washington to conduct an orientation session for newly elected members of Congress (only Republicans showed up).

When O’Keefe and a panel explained the strategy, they got a standing ovation from the 180 members of the council. “I’ve never heard of a panel getting a standing ovation,” O’Keefe says. At least 37 of them signed up as state coordinators for winning legislative approval of the health care compact. An experienced political consultant, Mike Barnhart, was hired as national coordinator.

As The Texas Independent reported in December, TPPF joined forces with the American Legislative Exchange Council to spread the word around on several TPPF proposals to resist federal power, including health care compacts and calls for constitutional conventions. One specified goal for a constitutional convention would be to propose a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is one of the legislative emergency items declared by prominent TPPF supporter Gov. Rick Perry.

On Monday, TPPF sent out a fundraising letter from TPPF President/CEO Brooke Rollins asking for support for their efforts to overturn federal health care reform. According to the letter:

Currently, our top priority is the establishment of an interstate compact, a Constitutionally-based solution that would rightfully restore control of health care to individual states and allow Americans to take control of their healthcare by taking it back from Washington.

To achieve this goal, TPPF is collaborating with state policy groups, legislators, and grassroots organizations in 33 states. In all of these states, exhaustive efforts are being made to educate policymakers, secure sponsors for legislation, and brief key business and policy leaders on the benefits of this strategy. The Compact is rapidly gaining the support it needs.

Meanwhile, the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP), an organization that advocates for low- and moderate-income Texans, opposes the health care compacts. Testimony against the compacts by CPPP Associate Director Anne Dunkelberg was recently made available on the CPPP website.

Also opposing the compacts during House committee testimony last week was Trey Berndt, Associate State Director of AARP. Berndt said his organization was against the compact legislation because it has 2 million people in Texas, with 1 million of those currently depending on Medicare.

John Hawkins of the Texas Hospital Association also testified during the committee hearing, saying his organization was remaining neutral on the compact legislation.

“Our main concern is that we do not rush to solve really what is a multifaceted state budget problem and do something that’s detrimental to the healthcare system in general,” Hawkins said.

[Image by Matt Mahurin]

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