TOPEKA — After two hours of debate, a constitutional amendment aimed at preventing the federal government from requiring that Kansans buy health insurance was sent by a committee to the House floor on Tuesday.
House Concurrent Resolution 5032 states that no person or business in the state can be required to participate in a specific health care system or purchase health care. The resolutions also stipulate that health-care providers may accept direct payments for medical care.
The resolution is needed to keep the federal government from infringing on the state's sovereignty, supporters say. Opponents, including the Kansas NAACP, say the amendment seeks to obstruct necessary health-care reform.
On Tuesday, some lawmakers in the House Health and Human Services Committee argued that the bill did nothing to improve health care in Kansas and was unnecessary.
"It keeps everything right where it is at," said Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, who noted that her son did not get health insurance through work and could not afford private insurance.
"If he can afford it, he has the freedom to get it," countered Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe.
The amendment would make sure that people weren't forced to purchase a health insurance plan, he said.
Neither health care proposal before Congress would create a single-payer system, which many Republicans said they feared would come with federal health care reform.
"I do not believe that this country or this state wants to get into the area of potentially rationing health care," said Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, who chairs the committee. The amendment would help prevent that scenario, she said.
Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield, asked why there needed to be a change to the state's constitution. The state could bring a lawsuit under the federal 10th Amendment, which guarantees state's rights, he said.
If the resolution passes by a two-thirds majority in both chambers, voters will consider the question in November.