On March 19, Ohio’s Senate passed Substitute S.B. 9 to set training and certification standards for health insurance ‘navigators’ as required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Navigators will play a pivotal role; educating and facilitating enrollment of hundreds of thousands of Ohioans into qualified health insurance plans through the federal health insurance exchanges. Ohio is not administering a health care exchange, yet thousands of navigators will still be hired to comply with the federal requirements. This critical component of Obamacare implementation has received little media attention, but according to the Washington Post, the ranks of insurance navigators will draw from “Unions, chambers of commerce, health clinics, immigrant-service organizations, and community- or consumer-focused nonprofits can use the federal grants to train and employ staff members or volunteers to provide in-person guidance.”
Among the questions to ponder: Will navigators ensure that Ohio’s voter rolls also benefit from grateful health care recipients? And what industries and organizations are spreading money in Ohio to lobby legislators and sway Governor Kasich? The first question may be rhetorical. Health insurance is now portrayed as a new human right. Both Canada and England have shown that once the populace is connected to a national health system, people will vote to protect health coverage for their family, even if the quality/timeliness of care decays. The second question is receiving scrutiny from new media journalists. As blogger/journalist Breeanne Howe reports, Democrats and advocates for Obamacare have allies helping to pave the path to implementation on the Republican side of the aisle. One such ally is Majority floor leader Barbara Sears. According to Ms Howe, “Representative Sears is currently serving her third term in Ohio and over the years has amassed nearly $1 million in campaign contributions from various members of the health care industry. In fact, her list of donors is a veritable who’s who of health care heavy hitters including: Humana, Merck & Co, Aetna, United Health Care, Johnson and Johnson and many more national players.” There was a time when this conflict would be sufficient for a Representative to step down from a leadership position. Times have changed.
In spite of the many health care organizations lobbying for the PPACA, Ohio citizens have taken a strong stand against the individual mandate to buy health insurance. In 2011, 65.6 percent of Ohioans voted for the Health Care Freedom Amendment to Ohio’s Constitution which states: “No federal, state, or local law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system. Could an Amendment be more concise? This overwhelming command of the citizens hasn’t deterred Ohio’s proponents of Obamacare and its attendant exchanges, penalties, and expansion of Medicaid.
Two Republican legislators are attempting to add teeth to Ohio’s Constitution and compel government to obey the will of the people. Ohio House members, Representative Ron Young (R-Leroy Twp.) and Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) recently introduced House Bill 91, also known as the “Health Care Freedom Act,” which protects Ohio employers and residents from the penalty provisions included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). According to Rep. Ron Young, “The Health Care Freedom Act uses the powers the PPACA grants states to prohibit insurance carriers operating in Ohio from receiving the payments that trigger penalties against employers and an estimated 387,000 Ohio taxpayers. It thus allows allow Ohioans to purchase or not purchase the health plan of their choice without the threat of punishment. Since the Health Care Freedom Act does not conflict with federal law, preemption is not an issue.” This piece of legislation must overcome the objections of statists on both sides of the aisle, before moving forward. This is a crucial turning point in Ohio and across the nation. An engaged electorate must carry the battle to our Statehouse and make sure every Representative knows where the people stand.