Hypocrisy of "State Rights" Conservatives on Health Care

Both national conservative leaders and a number of state legislators have attacked the current federal health bills as infringing on "state sovereignty."  Yet they oddly ignore the fact that two of the main planks in conservative health proposals proposed by Congressional leaders -- allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines and overriding state medical malpractice laws through "tort reform" -- are far clearer attacks on state authority.  

The main difference is that the progressive health reform bills already passed in Congress would strengthen consumer rights, while the conservative counter proposals would benefit corporate interests and weaken state consumer protections.

  • Take the proposal to allow insurance companies to sell across state lines.  The Right has been shopping this scam for years; it sounds good until you recognize that what the right-wing is proposing is for those insurance companies to be able to sell insurance in a state while ignoring all state regulations.  Companies could ignore rules prohibiting gender discrimination, charge the elderly more for insurance than allowed under state community rating rules, eliminate maternity benefits, or ignore rules requiring annual reviews of insurance increases.  Insurance companies could essentially pick their own regulations by setting up shop in a state with weak consumer protections, then sell policies that violate local state law in every other state in the nation.
  • Similarly, "tort reform" is just a code word for the federal government gutting state medical malpractice laws.  Patients would lose legal rights they previously had under individual state law.  Despite medical malpractice being a tiny percentage of health care costs — less than two percent of overall spending — conservatives blithely see striking down state laws across the country as a top priority.

And the reality is that neither solution will cut medical costs in any significant way; in fact, the proposal to allow insurance companies to sell products across state lines would actually increase insurance costs for many consumers, especially the sick and the elderly who would see premiums skyrocket, as documented in this New America Foundation report.

Part of Larger Trend of the Right-Wing's "States Rights" Hypocrisy:  This hypocrisy is part of a broader trend of the right-wing using "states rights" rhetoric to mask a pro-corporate, anti-consumer rights agenda.  From 2001 to 2006, the right-wing majority in Congress voted over 57 times between 2001 and 2006 to preempt state laws, including action to preempt state limits on air pollution, to preempt state regulation of contaminated food, and to block tougher state regulation of Internet "spam."

Some grassroots conservatives may believe the "states rights" rhetoric around health care reform, but they are being used by corporate interests promoting federal laws that would actually further the weakening of state consumer protection laws -- all without providing significant additional coverage and hurting the sickest and most vulnerable patients who most need strong patients' rights.

New America Foundation - Across State Lines Explained: Why Selling Health Insurance Across State Lines is Not the Answer
Americans for Insurance Reform - True Risk: Medical Liability, Malpractice Insurance and Health Care
Progressive States Network - Protecting State Health Care Standards
Progressive States Network - Restoring State Authority: An Agenda to Restrict Preemption of State Laws
U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee - Congressional Preemption of State Laws and Regulations 
Open Salon- What the Right Won't Admit About Tort Reform