DENVER (AP) – Democratic state lawmakers are pressing ahead with plans to implement the new federal health care program in Colorado, ignoring a proposal from Republicans to join a handful of states that want to form an interstate compact to come up with their own programs.

Longmont Democrat and Senate President Brandon Shaffer said Tuesday that under the federal law, the state is required to set up health care exchanges this year. The exchanges will allow individuals and small business owners to pool their insurance purchasing power and provide a place for one-stop comparison shopping.

But Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp said the U.S. Constitution allows states to form interstate compacts that could be approved by Congress and become law without President Barack Obama’s signature. The GOP proposal is similar to the Colorado River Compact that regulates water in western states.

“This should appeal to Democrats if we can keep our decision-making at home in Colorado,” Kopp said.

Obama told governors Monday that states could come up with their own plans as long as they meet federal objectives.

The GOP bill, which is not likely to pass in the Democrat-controlled state Senate, would allow state agencies that deal with health care issues to negotiate with other states to regulate the health care industry.

Republicans are pinning their hopes on the compact clause of the U.S. Constitution, after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in a similar 1981 case that congressional consent transforms interstate compacts into federal law.

Kopp said Arizona, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri and Tennessee have already introduced compact legislation, and leaders in Texas and Florida are considering it. Only two states are needed to create an interstate compact.

The GOP proposal didn’t appeal to Shaffer, who said Republicans and Democrats are working together on a bill that would create health care exchanges.

“I think we ought to focus on collaboration on productive efforts rather than something so divisive and political in nature,” Shaffer said.

The new federal health care law aims to ensure coverage for all and requires most U.S. residents to have insurance starting in 2014.

Democrats cite a study by the Colorado Trust, a nonprofit organization promoting health care for all Coloradans by 2018, that says the Obama plan is expected to reduce premiums up to 25 percent and insure 500,000 more Coloradans.

“The Affordable Care Act is only just beginning to be implemented in Colorado. The wisest decision we can make as a state is to give the act a chance to work here before we try to dismantle it,” said House Minority Leader Sal Pace, a Democrat from Pueblo.

– By Steven K. Paulson, AP Writer

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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