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Despite 4 Million Uninsured, Florida Senate Approves Opt-Out Amendment on Health Law

| March 10, 2011

colored uninsured segregation florida

Kindly update to uninsured. (Esther Bubley/Library of Congress)

Senate Republicans on Wednesday (March 10) approved a proposed constitutional amendment that attacks a key part of the federal health overhaul, brushing aside Democratic arguments about the roughly 4 million uninsured Floridians.

Senators voted 29-10 to approve the proposal, which is aimed at allowing people to opt out of a future requirement in the law that they buy health insurance or face financial penalties.

The so-called “individual mandate” has been the most controversial part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed into law a year ago.

The vote followed almost strict party lines, with Tallahassee Sen. Bill Montford the only Democrat supporting the amendment. Another Democrat, Larcenia Bullard of Miami, was absent.

Republicans said the proposal is about Floridians having freedom to make health-care decisions or to choose to go without health insurance. Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, took the unusual step of sponsoring the measure.

“This legislation belongs in the constitution because it affirms an individual right,” said Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who is one of Haridopolos’ top lieutenants.

But the badly outnumbered Democrats argued the proposed amendment would go beyond allowing Floridians to opt out of the federal mandate. They said it would also prevent future state lawmakers from trying to address problems such as the huge number of uninsured residents.

“Floridians need and deserve affordable health-care coverage,” said Minority Leader Nan Rich, a Weston Democrat who has long been a legislative leader on health issues.

The Senate vote came a day after the U.S. Justice Department served formal notice that it will appeal a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson of Pensacola, who found the law unconstitutional. Florida is lead plaintiff in the multi-state challenge.

Ordinarily, a Senate president does not sponsor such legislation, leaving it to other lawmakers. But Haridopolos, who is running for the U.S. Senate in 2012,quickly shepherded the amendment to a vote on the second day of the annual legislative session.

The House has not started moving its version of the proposed amendment. But the measure also likely will sail through that Republican-dominated chamber.

If approved by the Legislature, the proposed amendment would go before voters during the 2012 elections. It would need approval from 60 percent of voters to be placed into the state constitution.

Lawmakers passed a similar proposed constitutional amendment last year. But the Supreme Court on Aug. 31 blocked it because of misleading wording in a ballot summary.

Haridopolos removed that disputed wording from the new version of the amendment, as he and other supporters looked to make it immune to future legal challenges.

Under the federal law, almost all Americans will be required to have health insurance starting in 2014. But the proposed amendment would try to short-circuit that requirement for Floridians, saying that “a law or rule may not compel, directly or indirectly, any person or employer to purchase, obtain, or otherwise provide for health care coverage.”

Even if Florida voters ultimately approve the amendment, it remains unclear whether they will be able to opt out of the health mandate. That is because the amendment could be subject to a challenge under the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.

The clause comes into play when state and federal laws conflict and generally favors federal laws.

But Republicans argued today that Washington should not direct the health-care choices of Floridians.

“There are certain areas of life where government simply has no business,” Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.

Rich, however, fired back at arguments that the federal government should not be involved in health care.

“I’d like to ask all the Medicare people in our state … whether they agree with that statement,” Rich said.

–Jim Saunders, Health News Florida

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15 Responses for “Despite 4 Million Uninsured, Florida Senate Approves Opt-Out Amendment on Health Law”

  1. Dorothea says:

    A recent visit to an emergency room cost me over $2000 dollars. My insurance company has a contract with the hospital and that amount was reduced to $400. God help anyone who doesn’t have health insurance in Florida. He/she or the taxpayers will owe the hospital $2000, not the $80 that I paid (my deductible) if the Republicans have their way. Those who vote for this amendment should have their heads examined, but not by a doctor. They probably can’t afford it.

  2. Jay Ell says:

    Of course, the Florida Senate voted to opt out. Who is supposed to pay the bills for the increased coverage of 4 million added, due to enforcement of health care not only in Florida but nationally. Where is it written in the Constitution that Health Care is a entitlement and is to be mandated? Keep up this kind of social programs and it won’t be long before the US will be totally Socialistic, and replace Democracy which is already on the way out.

  3. Tom Brown says:

    Another phony stunt by the state legislature — passing a law that’s going to get struck down in the courts. This is not solving anything. Yeah, you’re upholding individual freedom, which ultimately becomes the freedom to go bankrupt when you get sick. Is this the type of insecurity you want to inflict on working families? Come on, Florida can do better than this.

  4. Mr Feel Well says:

    Jay Ell
    You sound like someone who has health insurance.

    Not someone who was excluded from purchasing it or more than likely won’t be able to afford it now that insurance companies have to sell to everyone.

    The most advanced country in the world can wage wars around the globe that cost trillions of dollar, bail out multi national corporations, and even give Senators, Representative, and even the President the best healthcare that our taxes can buy.

    But can’t or won’t provide all of its citizens with health care.

    That’s real fine thinking there Jay Ell.
    Don’t fret you are not alone. There are a number of politicians who are feeding at the public trough that feel the same as you.

  5. BW says:

    I always love the standard “socialist” response. So I am assuming those who say that are 100% opposed to Medicare and Social Security income and refuse to take part in those programs? The answer is, no they don’t. Both of those programs are socialist programs.

    I don’t agree with the mandatory portion of the legislation and think that needs to be amended at the federal level. There are other parts of the legislation that I think are great and overdue. I personally do not think the ability for one to be able to be treated should even need to be stated in a document. It’s just basic civilized society. There is something wrong when people and families have to weigh the economics of dying as opposed to living.

  6. notasenior says:

    In January I had a blood test done at Florida Hospital and the following week the same test done in Massachusetts (you know where we have so called “ObamaCare” “RomneyCare”). The Florida billed the insurance $82.71 and the Mass. hospital billed the insurance $44.02. Now I know how the government will save $700B over 10 years. We can’t be the greatest country if we just pick and choose who gets covered and who has to suffer!

  7. Monica Campana says:

    Republicans sure must like lawyers. They’ve provided enough grounds for lawsuits in the last two months to live on for a lifetime.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    BW, unfortunately we do not have “just a basic civilized society”, to take in a compassionate manner care of the uninsured ill, No Sir! We have a society were the wealthy and corporations in their unlimited greed have made it into a fascist style environment, where the powerful in control of our administrations continuo the pressure to enslave our workers and destroy our middle society, denying even the basic social services that we all pay for, up front ! Recall these new governors and their cronies and rally against these Wall Street mandated abuses, like the gouging at the pumps. Enough is enough. How come we police the world while making billions for the war suppliers, but we can’t take care of our own!

  9. I Think and I Vote says:

    I have been all through the thousands of pages of this abominable law. As a senior I personally resent the part that allows the Government to deny expensive life prolonging treatment for senior citizens. Obama lied when he said, “No death panels.” If there were 25 to 30 million people in our nation that were uncovered, by all means cover them. Do not take draconian measure and make the health coverage mandatory or all citizens (except Congress and the SEIU). A program that is good for us does not have to be mandatory if it is that good. Further, are you aware that in 2014 if you do not have health insurance you will be fined (tax surcharge) up to $2600.00 for your failure to buy insurance. However, if you do have insurance and that insurance is really good you can be fined (tax surcharge) 40% of the value of that policy for having too much insurance, unless you are a member of an AFL-CIO affiliate union. What kind of wonderful law is this? The geniuses that Obama hired to write the law neglected to include a seperability clause. Under a seperability clause if one part of the law is found to be unconstitutional only that part will be stricken. In the case of Obamacare if only one clause is found unconstitutional, the intire law is tanked. Besides, in 2014, if the Democrats lose the White House and both houses of Congress, the law will be revoked as the first order of business. I pray for this each and every day.

  10. I Think and I Vote says:

    Jay Eli, allow me to correct a general misconception about our country. First, our Constitution in clear and unambiguous language states that the United States is a republic. Our Constitution never uses the word democracy anywhere. We are not a democracy, we do not have rights under a democracy. We have a representative form of government that is chosen through a quasi-democratic process. Under a democracy, you and I could go to Washington and submit bills for legislation and along with every other American vote on whether or not those bill become law. We do not have that right. We do not have the right to make another citizen agree with us or bend to the will of the majority. What we have is free speech, the right to worship as we please, live where we choose, and work at our chosen profession. We do not have a right to health care provided by taxpayers. We do not have a right to a job. We do not have a right to keep a job at any cost. Bottom line, I am sick and tire of hearing the leftist inspired myth that we have rights under a democracy. The last true democracy was in ancient Athens, and they held slaves.

  11. elaygee says:

    I’ll support the effort to not mandate health insurance if we also mandate that anyone without health insurance cannot recieve any medical services they don’t pay for upfront.

    If you’re in a car accident and your leg is falling off or your lung has been punctured, no help for you if you opted out and can’t pay. Period. You die and I don’t have to pay for your cheap ass to keep on living.

    Pay your money or take your chances. No welfare for non participants in the system.

  12. Jack says:

    I demand a refund for all the years medicare and ss have been taken out of my paychecks and that all senior citizens be dropped from the medicare program effective immediately, damn you seniors and all your ailments, there’s millions of you comfortably sucking off the teet of the ‘gubmint’. Damn you all and your single-payer, Euro-style, commie medical coverage.

  13. Excluded says:

    I have lupus and cannot buy private insurance at any price. I am currently on a COBRA from my husband’s previous employer but that coverage will go away at the end of 2011 and then I do not know what I will do because I am self-employed and therefore do not have insurance through my own employer. It is very very likely that I will end up without insurance for a period of time.

    This makes me one of just millions of Americans who desperately need the provision of the healthcare law that no longer allows insurance companies to turn people down because of pre-existing conditions. Requiring ALL people to purchase insurance is necessary to increase the size of the insurance pool to make that it continue to be profitable for insurance companies to insure people like me when you eliminate pre-existing conditions. The other alternative to making everyone purchase insurance is to make the insurance programs government and non-profit. No one seems to like either of those options but something needs to change. It has to…people like me are literally DYING because we can’t get the medical care we need.

  14. w.ryan says:

    ” Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. How do you interpret this phrase from our constitution Jay Ell?

  15. BW says:

    I personally agree with what a lot of the legislation brings. I don’t agree with the mandate portion, and can understand the argument. In fact, it the same argument can be raised which requires automotive insurance. I would have preferred to see those who strongly oppose to have actually engaged in real conversation last year rather than going the fanatic route they chose to go. I commend our President for finally standing up to address and truly acknowledge the problems with our Health Care system. To deny it is a problem at all is absurd to me.

    The GOP sadly is in such disarray today, and I firmly believe if they could just get their act together they may actually be able to do some good. But all they keep doing is bringing band-aids to the battlefield to simply mask the wounds. The problem is still there and by ignoring it they only are making problems worse. They praise Reagan for tax cuts but forget how Reagan also closed many tax loopholes that raised taxes for businesses and individuals. Yet when that action is taken today, Republicans cry foul. Lincoln (a Republican) stood up against slavery which greatly impacted the economics and individual wealth in the south, yet we lash out against those that act against businesses that make decisions based on greed and impact human dignity and rights. The GOP today is more like the Grand Old Hypocrisy.

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