Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Who Has The Power, State Your Rights

Benjamin Franklin once described the concept of popular sovereignty by saying: "In free governments, the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns!"  Franklin served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and signed the United States Constitution.  If you read the constitution, particular Article VI, Clause 2, it reads (in part):
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
I will not bore you with historical, but back in the day there was a huge issue regarding states rights.  The source of this argument between the states and the federal government was, whether states entering the Union would be slave states or free states.  There was a doctrine called the "Missouri Compromise", yes compromise. It was sort of a one for one deal, one state slave state, and one state free.  I guess you can say that our country was actually working together, the problem was slavery. I will save my slavery Dred Scott blog for another day.  Today, let us talk about Medicaid.
Medicaid is a program funded jointly by the federal and state governments, and administered by the states.  The program is designed to provide health care for low income families, seniors and person with disabilities.  Ok, you see the problem already. How often do you think that states and the federal government will agree on any issue? As mentioned earlier, states and the federal government have been at odds for centuries over who has the rights and power to making certain decisions. If we go with Big Ben's philosophy the power lies with the people, right?  Yet, reading Article VI, it seems that the power lies with the government.
In a current case before the Supreme Court, Douglas v. Independent Living Center ,the United States has banded together with California against health care providers that sued to stop the state from cutting its Medicaid program.
Whoa, the states and the federal government actually working together?  Yes, we are at a dire economic time and the federal and state governments are slashing spending wherever possible.  The state of California decided to cut rates medical providers were charging under the Medicaid program, and the United States backed them.  This will help out the recipients of Medicaid.  Medicaid recipients are usually low income, senior, or disabled individuals. We want our poor and senior citizens to have access to affordable health care, don't we? We want to make sure the big insurance providers are not taking advantage of these individuals.  And in this economic environment, the government (state and local) does not have the money to pay these high rates. Good job United States, good job California.
Oh but wait, the other side of the argument.  The unintended consequence of states cutting Medicaid funding would be that Medicaid recipients would actually lose their access to health care.  Health care businesses and insurance companies would totally back out, and return to the private market.  What could be worse, small health care businesses would go out of business, which would result and firing plenty of workers.  Medicaid was started to provide access. If rates are high shouldn't it be up to the government to continue to pay the rates for the people, despite the cost?  The government (state and local) should cut other programs, or gain revenue in other ways to ensure that Medicaid is properly funded.
Wow, this is one for the books, the US/State versus The Chamber of Commerce/American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The chamber representing the business interest, the ACLU representing the interest of the individual. Democracy at its finest. Yet we still have a problem.
Both sides have very compelling arguments, don't you agree?  Is Ben Franklin's statement correct, and government should look to the will of the people at any cost?  Or should we read Article VI which gives the government the decision making process? Who will sacrifice here? Where is the middle ground? I am not going to answer that, I am here to argue bother sides…until next time, be impartial.

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