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My most important vote

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There have been 10,211 votes in the House of Representatives since I became a member of the Legislature. The most important vote I cast was on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2011.

State Rep.  Jason Murphey

State Rep. Jason Murphey

Though none of us knew it at the time, the Oklahoma House took action on a proposal which, in a dramatic twist of fate, could have killed part of what most would now agree is the most significant legal challenge to the national health care overreach.

When the federal government approved the national health care law, it envisioned state governments carrying out the implementation of new health care insurance exchanges. In January 2012, one of the proposal’s leading architects Jonathan Gruber described how the federal government incentivized the states to carry out the program through the issuance of federal tax credits in the states which agreed to participate.

Oklahoma could have easily been one of those states.

In 2011, the federal government offered Oklahoma 54.5 million dollars to participate. This fact joined an array of other arguments for why Oklahoma should quickly pass the plan. Wouldn’t it be irresponsible to turn down all that money? Shouldn’t Oklahoma control the health exchange instead of the federal government? If Oklahoma didn’t take quick action, we risked not only losing that money, but also control, and unless we complied, Oklahoma would be powerless to oppose the creation of the federally run program in Oklahoma. We had to act immediately!

Purusant to the strategy I delineated in my article last week (which you may read at hd31.org/661), I wasn’t fond of being forced to take immediate action. I don’t think Oklahoma should act on the federal government’s timetable and I made that case in defending my “No” vote.

Oklahoma must never become positioned into being easily and quickly bought off by the federal government.

While the proposal did pass the House that day, it passed by a margin of only a single vote. That close vote sent a strong message and a few days later the President Pro-Tem of the Oklahoma Senate Brian Bingman announced the proposal was dead.

Many other states would soon follow suit and today, more than half the states are not participating. Despite this fact, the federal government and IRS have not followed the provisions of the health care law which limit the law’s tax credit provisions to just those states which chose to participate.

In September 2012, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt entered the comments made by Jonathan Gruber and Oklahoma’s refusal to participate in the plan as facts to support Oklahoma’s lawsuit against the proposal on the grounds that the federal government is misusing the tax credits in violation of the law. A federal judge agreed with Pruitt who asked that the Supreme Court include Oklahoma’s successful case as it considers two other challenges to the national health care proposal.

The inclusion of Oklahoma’s case should bolster what many are now calling the most significant legal challenge to the national health care proposal.

Had Oklahoma policy makers acted hastily and taken the federal government’s money in 2011, not only would other states have come under pressure to follow Oklahoma’s example, but what may become a key component of the challenge to the national health care law would have never materialized.

Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.

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