TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- The Florida House voted along party lines today for a constitutional amendment allowing state residents to opt out of the national health-care program.
"I say, keep your hands off my freedom," Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, told the House.
The proposal (SJR 2) by Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, would stop any Floridian from being required or forbidden to participate in any health-care plan. The state is already involved in a federal lawsuit, with more than two-dozen other states, seeking to declare the federal Affordable Care Act unconstitutional because of its mandate that everyone buy insurance or pay a fine.
"People are voting against their own interests," argued Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando. "You're paying for health care, the most expensive form of health care, when people go to the emergency room."
Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, objected to the "Obamacare" label and said the White House scored a historic victory last year. He said the new law will help small businesses provide insurance coverage for their employees, prevent cancellation of coverage when people get sick and allow working families to keep dependent college students on their policies.
But Rep. Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda, said the issue was personal freedom. As a physician, he said, he would benefit from the national plan but, as a representative, he opposed it as unconstitutional.
"I'm one of the few people in this room who'd actually make money off of Obamacare," said Kreegel. "But there is something fundamentally wrong about forcing any American to buy anything, and that includes health insurance."
Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, said his family moved from Canada because America offered greater freedom.
"Socialism may have worked just fine in my homeland of Canada, but here we are free," said Workman. "Push back against the evils of socialism by supporting this bill."
The House voted 80-37 for the constitutional amendment. It will go on the 2012 election ballot for a public referendum and will require 60 percent public support to become part of the state constitution.
Bill Cotterell, Florida Capital Bureau