Fla. Senate approves bill responding to Obama's health care law

By Jessica M. Karmasek | May 2, 2011


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - The Florida Senate on Monday approved a bill that would prohibit state residents from being required to buy health insurance.

The measure, House Bill 1193, passed 30-7. The House of Representatives approved the measure, 81-34, on Friday.

The bill is in response to President Barack Obama's federal health care law.

Currently, 26 states are challenging a $695 annual penalty that will be imposed on individuals who do not purchase health insurance. Virginia, in a separate lawsuit, is defending a state law that says none of its residents can be penalized for not purchasing health insurance -- similar to the Florida bill.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson sided with the states in March. He voided the entire legislation in the multistate lawsuit, saying the mandate is too integral to be separated.

In the Virginia case, arguments will be made May 10 before the Fourth Circuit and its ruling will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Under HB 1193, a person may not be compelled to purchase health insurance, except as a condition of:

- Public employment;

- Voluntary participation in a state or local benefit;

- Operating a dangerous instrumentality;

- Undertaking an occupation having a risk of occupational injury or illness;

- An order of child support; and

- Activity between private persons.

According to text of the legislation, it does not prohibit the collection of debts lawfully incurred for health insurance.

The measure will be effective once it is signed into law. According to The Associated Press, Florida Gov. Rick Scott will be getting the bill soon.

Scott, a Republican and a former hospital chain CEO, opposes the federal health care reform, the AP said.

On Monday, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is heading up the multistate health care lawsuit, issued her own statement following the bill's passage:

"I commend the Legislature for passing a bill that opposes the federal government from compelling Floridians to purchase health insurance," she said. "I am grateful to Senator (Rene) Garcia (R-District 40) and Representative (Matt) Hudson (R-District 101) for their hard work, which serves to protect our individual liberties."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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