JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri Republican lawmakers were divided Thursday about whether to create an online insurance marketplace now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld most of the federal health care law.
The law gives states the choice of running their own health insurance exchange or having the federal government run one for them beginning in 2014. Leading up to the legal battle, Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature had resisted efforts to form a state-based exchange.
But immediately after the high court announced its decision, Rep. Chris Molendorp said legislative leaders should appoint a committee to study a health insurance exchange and then quickly approve the creation of one in January. Molendorp operates an insurance agency in Raymore and in 2011 sponsored legislation to establish a state insurance exchange. He said one could be developed without becoming a burden on state general tax revenue.
“Exercising your last shred of sovereignty, exercising states’ rights to control their marketplace—that is a conservative, prudent, responsible action by a citizen legislator,” he said.
However, House Majority Leader Tim Jones said he prefers a wait-and-see approach. Jones, who is in line to be House speaker next year, said that if Republican Mitt Romney defeats Democratic President Barack Obama, he believes Romney will suspend the requirement to have health insurance exchanges in each state.
“I wouldn’t want to waste a lot of legislative time and state resources right now, setting up something—or talking about setting up something—which may become completely unnecessary in November,” said Jones, R-Eureka.
Meanwhile, one of Missouri’s leading opponents of the federal health care overhaul said the fight has only begun.
Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder filed his own lawsuit in 2010 over the federal health care overhaul and its requirement that most Americans obtain insurance or pay a penalty. Kinder distinguished his legal arguments from the case before the U.S. Supreme Court while calling the federal health care law the “largest tax increase on the American people in our history.”
“Today’s decision underscores the dire importance of pending lawsuits such as my own, the November election and the need for the full repeal of this monstrous tax on Americans,” Kinder said.