A group of state senators will host three public meetings this week, including one in North Charleston, on proposed legislation that would nullify Obamacare in South Carolina.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, but S.C. House Bill 3101, also called the “Freedom of Health Care Protection Act,” would make enforcing parts of it illegal in South Carolina regardless of the high court’s decision.
The proposed bill argues that the Affordable Care Act has exceeded the scope of powers granted to the federal government by the Constitution. It would establish criminal and civil penalties for anyone who attempts to enforce certain provisions of Obamacare in this state.
The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution defines the founding document and the laws of the United States as “the supreme Law of the Land.”
Most constitutional scholars agree that federal laws trump state laws, but nullification supporters argue differently.
The Bill of Rights’ 10th Amendment specifies that powers not regulated to the United States by the Constitution are reserved for the states.
The “Freedom of Health Care Protection Act,” citing the 10th Amendment, would prohibit South Carolina from creating a health insurance exchange and would establish a tax deduction for any South Carolinian who is fined by the federal government for not purchasing health insurance — a new requirement under federal law.
Most individuals who cannot prove they are insured next year will face a $95 penalty.
The proposed bill passed the S.C. House of Representatives in May. The state Senate is scheduled to debate the legislation when the General Assembly reconvenes in January, after it debates ethics reform.
“It’s the No. 2 thing we take up when we get to Columbia,” said Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, chairman of a select committee organizing the public meetings on the bill. “It’s my job as chairman of this committee to provide a full range of how states are pushing back against the Affordable Care Act.”
The meetings will be held Tuesday and Wednesday in Columbia, Greenville and North Charleston. Members of the audience will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed bill at the meetings.
“They can hold these hearings, but it would much more impactful to stop playing politics with national wedge issues and focusing on the tea party base,” said Kristin Sosanie, a spokeswoman for the S.C. Democratic Party.
Sosanie said South Carolinians would be better served if the Legislature focused on creating jobs and passing an ethics reform bill.
“These are the types of things that are serving as distractions to things like ethics reform, which is really sorely needed,” she said.
It’s not known if Gov. Nikki Haley would sign the bill given the chance. Her office did not respond Monday to several requests for comment on the issue.
Tony Keck, director of the South Carolina Medicaid agency and an opponent of the Affordable Care Act, said the nullification bill, if passed and signed into law, could make it difficult for the state to draw federal funds for the Medicaid program.
More than half of the Medicaid program in South Carolina is paid for by the federal government.
If South Carolina nullified the federal health care law, there is “reason to be concerned” about that future funding, Keck said.
“We’ve been keeping an eye on the debate obviously,” he said.
Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.