With Governor Gary Herbert's signature on Tuesday (March 20), Utah has become the fifth state to enter into a compact designed to get the federal government out of the health care business, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.
The so-called "Health Care Compact" would transfer control of Medicare and Medicaid from Washington to the states and turn the two vast programs into block grants, giving states the freedom to manage health care as they see fit. Supporters of the idea say states are better suited than the federal government to manage programs that are relied on by their residents, but detractors say the proposal is dangerous and would harm the elderly, the poor and others in need of government assistance.
While the compact is expanding — Utah joined Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas in adopting it — it would go into effect only if Congress lends its approval, and that appears to be an unlikely prospect.
The Health Care Compact is a reaction to the Obama administration's health care law, which is being challenged next week in oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court. According to the website of the Health Care Compact, the proposal "does not conflict with the efforts by state attorneys general, state legislators and members of Congress to repeal or modify the health care bill."
Instead, it serves as an alternative. It would allow states to continue drawing federal money for health care programs, but would give them the freedom to suspend federal regulations and otherwise manage the programs as they want. It would cover most, but not all, health care programs currently managed by the federal government; military health care would remain in federal hands.