Health care issue brings out worst on both sides

by Sarah Fay Campbell

Obamacare and Georgia’s reaction to it was in the spotlight at the State Capitol Tuesday, as one group advocating the expansion of Medicaid blocked the doors to the Senate chamber, and Tea Party members and others opposing Obamacare came out to advocate for a bill that would limit the state’s involvement in the federal health care law.

“Moral Monday Georgia” activists have protested several times at the Capitol in Atlanta this season, asking for the state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

On Tuesday, several of the Moral Monday activists were arrested. In addition to those blocking doors to the Senate, others chanted from the Senate gallery, and there was also a sit-in blocking the door of Gov. Nathan Deal’s office.

More than a dozen protesters were arrested, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle cleared the Senate gallery of visitors after the protest.

Meanwhile, proponents of House Bill 707 came out to show their support for the legislation.

HB 707 would prevent all government employees and contractors from taking action to create an insurance exchange or advocate for Medicaid expansion. It would prohibit any government agency from establishing a “navigator” program, and would prohibit the state insurance commissioner from enforcing “any health care insurance related provision of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

State Rep. David Stover, R-Palmetto, is one of the primary sponsors of the legislation.

On Monday, the Senate Rules Committee tabled HB 707. That means that the bill wouldn’t go to the Senate for a vote either Tuesday, or Thursday, the last day of the 2014 Georgia General Assembly session.

The bill’s author, Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, sent out an impassioned press release Monday, announcing a Tuesday press conference.

“That eleventh hour betrayal effectively killed the bill, but it could still be brought back to life by an amendment of companion legislation,” Spencer said in the release, referring to the tabling of the bill. “Tomorrow, I will identify the Republican Benedict Arnolds, the King George the Third and his myrmidons who shipwrecked his path breaking, patriotic bill (HB 707) to prevent the federal Leviathan from commandeering the machinery of state government or resources to enforce ill-conceived federal health insurance mandates. A patriot saves his country from his government. HB 707 would have been the first occasion in a century to draw a constitutional line against state complicity in endless federal encroachments.”

Supporters of the bill went to work, contacting their legislators, and several turned out at the capitol on Tuesday.

At 1 p.m. Tuesday, Spencer sent out a release saying that the press conference was canceled “due to some dramatic progress that has been made to advance House Bill 707 for the people of Georgia.”

“The people of Georgia should be commended for their political activism and their support of this legislation; your voice has been heard today,” Spencer said in a statement. “Please continue to stay tuned as my colleagues and I continue the political process through late Thursday evening and just know that progress has been made.”

According to several news sources, that progress included the involvement of Gov. Deal in potentially resurrecting the bill.

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