In March 2010, President Obama signed a healthcare reform that caused much scrutiny and debate among the American public. Specifically, the most controversial provision in the bill states that in 2014, everyone must purchase health insurance or face a $695 annual fine.
Many states, including Florida, have taken issue with the provision. Florida filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the so-called “individual mandate” provision moments after President Barack Obama signed the act into law in March 2010, arguing that the government can’t force people to buy a product. Twenty-five states joined the suit, along with the National Federation of Independent Business. A federal judge in Pensacola ruled in January in favor of Florida and the other plaintiffs, concluding that because the mandate is unconstitutional, the entire law is unconstitutional.
Florida state officials have gone so far and have been ignoring the law almost entirely — rejecting millions of federal dollars to provide healthcare for retirees, seniors, children and people with disabilities.
“Like a lot of other states, Florida is involved in the lawsuit itself, but there’s a big difference,” said Eddie Vale, a spokesperson for the Washington-D.C.-based nonprofit Know Your Care, established to educate people about the federal law. “While other states are suing, they are still going ahead with passing regulations that are necessary, working with Health and Human Services where necessary to bring the benefits of the federal healthcare law to their residents.” Florida, on the other hand, is not.
An appeals court will hear oral arguments in Florida’s challenge to the newly implemented healthcare law. The case is expected to be decided by the United States Supreme Court.
Legislators plan to ask voters to amend the state Constitution next year to ban “laws or rules from compelling any person or employer” to buy health insurance. The measure, which needs approval by 60 percent of Floridians, would not stop the federal law in Florida if it survives a court challenge. But supporters say it would ban similar programs at the state level.
By implementing this bill into law, President Obama has obviously stressed the need for healthcare among our citizens. However, mandating that everyone purchase it or pay a fine may be deemed unconstitutional. It is important that this issue be resolved sooner rather than later because Florida’s denial of federal funds will harm its citizens. The rejected money included $2 million for hospice care for children and $8 million for construction of community health centers.
The state of Florida is clearly making a statement by ignoring a federally mandated law, but is it to the advantage of us Floridians? This healthcare reform has created quite a stir among our society and hopefully a resolution is imminent.
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