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Panel to look into cost of federal health care law

Sen. Sylvia Allen

Sen. Sylvia Allen

A Republican state senator who last year created an ad hoc legislative committee that blasted scientific findings that global warming is man-made is at it again this year and has called together another committee to discuss the federal health care law.

Sen. Sylvia Allen’s ad-hoc committee will meet Sept. 15 to examine the costs of implementing the federal health care law and to find ways to limit the impact of those costs on Arizona businesses and individuals.

“We need to look at ways to reform those programs so that Arizona can fill critical medical needs without breaking the budget,” Allen said, explaining that problems in the health care industry can be solved through “free-market principles and less control from the federal government.”

But supporters of the federal law said Allen’s hearing will be a waste of time if only critics of the health care law participate. Without constructive dialogue, it’s just a “bully pulpit to bash the new federal law,” said Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Phoenix.

“If she’s just interested in repeating right-wing rhetoric and things that aren’t true, then I would suggest that we not waste state resources on it,” she said.

In May, Arizona joined 19 other states in a lawsuit against the federal government over the health care law. The states claim the federal government does not have constitutional authority to require most people in the U.S. to get health care coverage and prevent states from decreasing the coverage offered under Medicaid and other programs.

The health care law puts additional pressure on state budgets because lawmakers cannot reduce eligibility for government-run health care programs that were in place when the law was signed. Failure to comply would jeopardize billions of dollars in federal money.

As a result, Arizona lawmakers revised a budget they had passed that included the elimination of the KidsCare health insurance program and drastic reductions to the state Medicaid system. The cuts would have saved the state hundreds of millions of dollars if implemented.

Meanwhile, voters will decide in November whether to amend the state Constitution to say no law or rule shall compel anybody to participate in any health care system. The measure, if passed, would put the state laws in conflict with federal law.

Committees such as the one Allen has created don’t have the authority of regular committees and can only make recommendations, which can be ignored or transformed into legislation.

Sen. John Nelson, a Republican from Litchfield Park, is the only other lawmaker on the committee. Members of the medical field also have been invited to participate in the hearing.

Allen said she didn’t inquire about people’s party affiliation when she asked them to take part in the hearing. She said she was more interested in their ideas and experiences.

Last year, Allen headed an-hoc committee that looked into climate initiatives.

The speakers invited to the panel were critics of global warming, some of whom said the impact of the proposed federal cap-and-trade legislation on reducing global carbon emission at the end of this century would be negligible — similar to turning off one 100-watt incandescent bulb in a football stadium.

Sandy Bahr of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental group, called that hearing “ridiculous and embarrassing,” adding that the discussion was one-sided.

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