Florida Lawmakers Move to Block Obama Health Care Mandate
Echoing contentious debate over the weekend as Congress approved a sweeping overhaul of the national health care system, a panel of Florida lawmakers approved a proposed resolution to block the requirement that people buy health insurance beginning in 2014.
And hours after the U.S. House approved the measure, which had been debated for the better part of a year and sought by national Democrats for generations, Florida Attorney General and likely Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill McCollum said he would push forward with a promised attempt to get the mandate thrown out in court before it can ever take hold.
After lengthy debate Monday that could have fit in with the hours of rancor in Congress as the health care measure neared approval, the House Health Care Regulation Committee voted 10-3 to approve the resolution (HJR 37), sponsored by Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood.
As their counterparts in Washington did, Republicans on the panel painted the forthcoming expansion of health care as an affront to basic American freedoms. Democrats countered by echoing the arguments made in Congress for passing the bill, comparing the requirement that insurance be purchased to requirements for drivers’ insurance.
They added that even if the resolution was approved by the Legislature and voters, it would be trumped by the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says that federal law trumps state law.
However, Plakon said that was a risk worth taking because “medical freedom” should be on the level of other freedoms ensconced in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
“We believe that an individual mandate that forces Floridians to buy insurance, whether on a federal basis like the one Washington passed last night or a state basis like the failed Massachusetts experiment is wrong for Floridians,” he told the panel as he implored them to support the resolution. “They are anti-freedom, anti-liberty and very likely unconstitutional. This will be the first time in American history that Americans will be forced to buy a product from a privately-held company for profit.”
Citing the U.S. Constitution’s Tenth Amendment, which leaves matters not dealt with by Congress to states, Plakon argued that the federal health care bill was a violation of states’ rights.
But Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, countered that health care was a “federal issue” and was long overdue.
“Every society has realized - it seems but ours - that health of our fellow citizens is extremely important,” she said “The fifty states have tried for the decades we have been in a health care crisis and they have not done that. We get deeper and deeper and deeper into the hole.”
The Democratically-aligned AFL-CIO labor union agreed with Vasilinda, praising the Congressional health care bill and accusing the Republican-dominated panel of playing politics by pushing the resolution against it.
“The half million workers, retirees and families we represent woke up this morning ecstatic that something was finally done to reform our health care system,” Florida AFL-CIO lobbyist Rich Templin told the panel “What happened last night was finally, people in this state will know in just a few days that they can’t lose their coverage because they get sick.”
But Rep. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, responded by asking Templin “is Washington or is the AFL-CIO going to help us pay” for extending health care coverage in the state.
Separately, McCollum said Monday that he would join counterparts in nine states - South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Pennsylvania, Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota and Alabama – in suing the federal government over the insurance requirement as soon as President Barack Obama signs the measure into law, expected to occur as early as Tuesday morning.
“What this amounts to is a tax on living,” McCollum said on a conference call with reporters. “It is therefore unconstitutional.”
McCollum said the mandate would cost the state more than $1.6 billion in higher Medicaid costs.
“There is no way we can provide what is in this bill and still pay for education and other programs,” McCollum said.