Senate bill would bar federal health insurance mandateHolly White
The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Wednesday reported a bill out of committee that would amend the state's constitution to eliminate the upcoming federal requirement for individuals to purchase health insurance.
Senate Bill 10 aims to prohibit laws that:
- Mandate an individual to obtain or maintain health insurance.
- Penalize an individual for paying for health care expenses out of pocket or without insurance.
- Impose fees on an individual for not getting or maintaining health insurance.
Republican Sen. Joe Scarnati III, is the main sponsor of the bill, which directly contradicts the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed by President Barack Obama in March 2010. Scarnati represents Cameron, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, Tioga, and parts of Clearfield and Warren counties.
The act requires every individual to get health insurance as of Jan. 1, 2014, and anyone not complying to pay a penalty fee.
"Sen. Scarnati believes … it's time for the legislature to take a stand for state's rights and individual freedom and send a message to the Supreme Court, Congress and the president to that effect," said Casey Long, the senator's director of policy and legislative affairs.
The bill could be devastating for the 1.4 million Pennsylvania residents without health insurance who would benefit from the choices and protections that are a part of the Affordable Care Act, said The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and the Pennsylvania Health Access Network in a joint statement.
The Harrisburg-based policy center provides nonpartisan analysis on state tax and budget matters, and the network in Harrisburg works to improve access to health care throughout the state.
For the constitutional amendment to take effect, it must be passed by two consecutive legislative sessions and then voted on by the public during a general election.
Scarnati is hopeful the Senate will review SB10 in the near future, Long said. The earliest it could be voted on by the public would be the primary elections in 2013, according to the requirements.
Several other states have passed legislation, including constitutional amendments, in opposition to the Affordable Care Act.
The Supreme Court later this month will hear arguments for an appealed lawsuit brought by Pennsylvania and 25 other states, along with the National Federation of Independent Businesses. A decision on the constitutionality and severability of the individual mandate of the act is expected in June.