GOP lawmakers reject Beshear's executive order creating health exchange as Democrats walk out

09/19/2012 04:00 PM

UPDATED — Republican House and Senate lawmakers on Wednesday voted to call Gov. Steve Beshear out of bounds for his executive order creating a health exchange — an outgrowth of the U.S. Affordable Care Act.

Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, offered a motion at the interim legislative health and welfare committee declaring that Beshear does not have the authority to create a new agency — in this case, the Kentucky Health Exchange — by executive order. Instead, the governor by law can only rearrange existing agencies and still must get the legislature’s ultimate approval, Givens said, citing state statute .

The move caught Beshear’s fellow Democrats off guard. And after raising their objections, most of them walked out the meeting, which was held at Kaleidoscope, a young adult day health center in Louisville.

Democrats fired back that the governor was merely following federal law and the legislature should take this up when it reconvenes in January.

“This is the law now, and it was upheld by one of your guys. Not by ours. One of your guys stabbed you in the back,” said Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, referring to Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush. “I say the governor can pass an executive order anytime he wants to. And it comes back to the next session to see whether it’s legal or not what he’s done.”

Legislators had hoped the meeting would yield answers from officials from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services about the future costs and operations of the Health Benefit Exchange. Officials couldn’t answer many of those questions in their meeting last month.

The exchange is the entity that will match up uninsured Kentuckians with private health insurance. It will specifically serve those who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but don’t have insurance through their jobs.

Other Democrats, like Lexington Rep. Kelly Flood, also harshly criticized the motion by Republicans. Flood called it a charade before walking out.

But Paducah Republican Rep. Brent Housman, who is not running for re-election this year, said Democrats’ protests about having this sprung on them were a bit hollow because he said that’s the way Democratic leaders run that chamber.

Democratic Rep. John Will Stacy of West Liberty — who is not a member of the committee — was the only Democrat to stay the rest of the meeting, which was held at a health facility in Louisville, said it was not the right place to raise the issue.

He predicted this dispute between two branches of government eventually would land in front of the third branch: the courts.

“The real forum for this, if it doesn’t happen the way you hope it will, is in a court of law,” Stacy said.

After the Democrats left the meeting, the Republicans remaining on the committee voted by voice vote to report the findings within KRS 12.028 , the which relates to reorganization, to the LRC and to the Governor.

This represents the first time a legislative committee in Kentucky has taken a vote on any piece of the Affordable Care Act.


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