JEFFERSON CITY - A Senate committee heard testimony Tuesday on a bill, which would prevent Gov. Nixon's administration from creating a health exchange without the approval of Missouri voters.
The health exchange would establish a website where consumers would be able to compare insurance company's rates before purchasing a plan. The bill sponsored by Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, prevents the state executive branch from establishing such an exchange as mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as "Obamacare."
"This bill is needed because the governor has already tried to create a health insurance exchange by executive order ... this shouldn't be allowed to happen. This is the purview of the Legislature, not the governor," Schaaf said.
Schaaf's bill stems from a conflict last September where the Missouri Health Insurance Pool (MHIP) got a $21 million from a federal grant to lay the groundwork for the exchange. Lawmakers were irate when they were not consulted on the move.
Alan LeDodge, a retired United Methodist Pastor, testified against the bill, saying Missouri needed the federal grant money, "so that our state agencies can upgrade their computer systems, make them more effective, make them more usable, make the job of our employees in the state work more effectively and more effectively respond to the needs of our people."
Supporters of the bill argued it has nothing to do with supporting or opposing an exchange program. Schaaf said that while he is against the establishment of such an exchange, his bill is not "anti-exchange."
Under federal law Missouri has until 2014 to set up its own health exchange or they will have to use the federal government's. The United States Supreme Court is currently reviewing the "Obamacare" law and will conduct its hearing on the case in March with a decision expected in late June.
Carl Bearden, Executive Director of United for Missouri, agreed saying whether or not someone supports the exchange "does not really matter" when it comes to support of Schaaf's measure.
"We believe that this is a significant, monumental decision that is being attempted to be made or could be made by one person or unelected bureaucrats," Bearden said.
If passed by both House and Senate, Schaaf's bill will be sent to the ballot for the voter's approval.