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Health policy expert draws two crowds

Last modified: 2/10/2012 12:00:00 AM
A health policy expert from the national conservative group behind several bills pending in the New Hampshire Legislature brought a small group of lawmakers and some determined critics to a presentation at the State House yesterday.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington D.C.-based network of conservative lawmakers who craft model legislation to be used in states throughout the country, has been the source of at least seven bills introduced in the House this year, according to liberal group Granite State Progress, which tracks the bills.

Christie Herrera, director of ALEC's Health and Human Services Task Force, spoke yesterday morning to about a dozen lawmakers inside Representatives Hall. House Speaker Bill O'Brien, a Mont Vernon Republican, stopped by to listen and ask a question, having forwarded an invitation to fellow lawmakers.

Herrera's presentation raised concerns about the impact of the federal health care overhaul. She presented arguments against the law's individual health insurance mandate and the statewide insurance exchanges.

In the House gallery, members of a group called the NH Citizens Alliance for Action watched the presentation. The group says ALEC is largely funded by big corporations and its model bills seek to further corporate interests.

"There were more of us here than there were people attending this event," said Karen Kelly, a spokeswoman for the group. "That felt hopeful to me because it's a very pervasive group and gaining traction."

Two ALEC-inspired bills this session include House Bill 1297, which prevents New Hampshire from participating in the health insurance exchanges, and HB 1560, which would allow state law to trump federal laws with regard to health care.

Rep. Gary Daniels, a Republican from Milford, attended Herrera's presentation in order to learn more about health insurance exchanges. ALEC is "political networking," similar to other groups like the National Conference of State Legislatures, he said.

"It's a bipartisan group of state legislators throughout the country, over 2,000 of us, who get together to share ideas on what's working and not working within our own states," he said. "The model legislation usually comes from somebody who has tried something already" and is then tailored to be state-specific, he said.

After Herrera's presentation, a group of Democratic activists dropped off a petition with 500 signatures in opposition to House Bill 1560, which they say could allow lawmakers to end Medicare in New Hampshire.

Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, a Democrat from Nashua, said anybody can come to the State House to talk to lawmakers, but she has concerns about using ALEC's model legislation.

"It's so generic, it doesn't meet the needs of individual states," she said.


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