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GOP wants Utah to opt out of health care reform, dems don't

GOP wants Utah to opt out of health care reform, dems don't



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Republican Utah lawmaker Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, wants Utahns to have the option not to take part in a federal health care program.

He says he's drafting a proposed amendment to Utah's Constitution; one he believes will get overwhelming approval.

"We're going to pass a state Constitutional amendment stating that people will not be forced by the national government to purchase health care insurance and that small businesses will not be forced to provide them," Wimmer said.

Voters, of course, would have to pass the amendment, and it would have to get at least two-thirds majority in the Utah House and Senate. But Wimmer says it's worth it, no matter what comes out of the Federal health care reform effort.

He says it's a state's rights issue and that Utah has made good progress on its own reform plans. "We don't need help from the Federal government figuring this thing out, we know how to do it and we're able to do it far more efficiently than they are," he says.

Such an amendment could lead to cuts in federal funding and to lawsuits, but Wimmer says it's time states "wean themselves" from federal dollars and that lawsuits may be the only way to "turn the tables" on the Federal government.

Wimmer is a member of the Patrick Henry caucus, a group founded in Utah that pushes for states' rights.

His plan is not the first suggesting states should have the right to opt out of the Obama administration's plans. At least six other states are considering several measures. Voters in Arizona will decide on such an amendment on their 2010 ballot.

But Utah democrats are not on board with the GOP's ideas. Senate minority leader Pat Jones tells KSL Utah could lose federal funds and state residents could wind up with higher health care premiums if the state opts out of health care reform.

"Health care is a very complex problem that we all agree is a problem. And to have this kind of knee-jerk reaction, I think, is ill-advised and could cost the citizens of our state a great deal of money," Jones said.

Her concerns may be a moot point. It's difficult to amend Utah's state constitution. John Fellows, legal counsel for the Utah Legislature, says an amendment would have to come in the form of a joint resolution, approved by two-thirds majority in both houses, then approved by voters in a general election as well.

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Compiled with contributions from Marc Giauque and Becky Bruce

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