Health care measure appears headed to Wyoming voters

2011-02-15T23:30:00Z 2011-02-16T07:43:53Z Health care measure appears headed to Wyoming voters

By JOAN BARRON

Casper Star-Tribune

The Billings Gazette
February 15, 2011 11:30 pm  • 

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A proposed constitutional amendment that asserts the rights of adult Wyoming citizens to make their own health care decisions came one step closer to getting on the 2012 general election ballot Tuesday.

Senate Joint Resolution 2, the health care freedom bill, easily passed the House on a 49-11 roll-call vote.

The Senate earlier voted 23-7 in favor of the resolution.

The bill was sent back to the Senate on Tuesday for a vote on House changes. Once that step is cleared, the bill will go to the desk of Gov. Matt Mead, who can either sign it, veto it or allow it to go into effect without his signature.

The measure reflects the state's resistance to federal health care reform, or the Affordable Care Act.

The measure's sponsor, Sen. Leslie Nutting, R-Cheyenne, said earlier that passing the bill would put Wyoming in a good position to make its own alternative health care proposals.

Opponents, including Sen. Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, said the bill is too vague, does not belong in the Wyoming Constitution and may have unintended consequences.

The language in the bill was subject to heavy debate in both houses.

The House on Monday adopted an amendment from Rep. Mary Throne, D-Cheyenne, to remove language that gave parents, guardians and legal representatives the right to make health care decisions for their children or legal charges.

On Tuesday, the House voted for an amendment from Rep. Amy Edmonds, R-Cheyenne, to put the language back in the bill.

Edmonds said the Legislature should say that parents have the right to make health care decisions for their children.

But Throne said the language in question has nothing to do with the purpose of the bill.

Her concern, she said, is that the language gives guardians of children or disabled people rights they don't have now.

There are people, she said, who abuse their rights to take care of disabled people and seniors, as there are parents who do not make good decisions for their children.

“If the language is in the constitution, we might not be able to protect those people” who are vulnerable, Throne said.

“We need to be careful of what goes into our constitution,” she said.

House Speaker Ed Buchanan, R-Torrington, supported reinstating the language.

“I look at this as a reaffirmation of a right that already exists,” he said.

Rep. Lorraine Quarberg, R-Thermopolis, agreed, saying the language is an important part of the bill.

Edmonds said the “beautiful” bill has been fully vetted by the Senate and the House. She suggested the amendment to remove the language was a last-minute strategy by opponents.

“This is eleventh-hour thrashing around muddying the water,” she said.

The bill directs the secretary of state to place the following statement on the ballot for the proposed amendment: “The adoption of this amendment will provide that the right to make health care decisions is reserved to the citizens of the state of Wyoming. It permits any person to pay and any health care provider to receive direct payment for services. The amendment permits the legislature to place reasonable and necessary restrictions on health care consistent with the purposes of the Wyoming Constitution and provides that this state shall act to preserve these rights from undue governmental infringement.”

Polls have shown that the federal health care law, which includes a mandate that people buy health insurance, is opposed by most Wyoming residents.

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