Senate Approves Scarnati’s “Individual Health Care Freedom Amendment”

Office of Sen. President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati

The state Senate today approved a measure by Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) that would amend the state Constitution to prohibit Pennsylvanians from being required to obtain health insurance coverage or from being penalized for not doing so.

Scarnati said Senate Bill 10 would give voters an opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to a key part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. That law contains a controversial “individual mandate” provision forcing Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or face escalating financial penalties as high as 2.5 percent of their total household income.

A recent USA Today/Gallup Poll found that 75 percent of voters, including a majority of democrats and liberals, believe the law is unconstitutional.

Scarnati said while his bill was introduced in response to “Obamacare,” its main purpose is to address the issue of federal government overreach and intrusion on state rights and individual liberty.

“This issue is of such vital importance to our free society that the legislature must ensure Pennsylvania citizens have the opportunity to make their voices heard,” Scarnati said. “If the federal government can force a citizen to purchase health insurance, then are there any limits to what the federal government can compel a person to do?”

Legislators in more than 20 states have sponsored similar proposals, while voters already have passed such amendments in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma. Four more will have a similar question on November ballots, he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments on challenges to the health care law and will rule on the federal statute’s constitutionality. Pennsylvania is among 26 states that have sued, saying Congress overstepped its authority.

“While obtaining reasonably priced health care insurance should be an affordable option for all Pennsylvanians, it should remain each individual’s personal choice whether to do so,” concluded Scarnati.

Because it is a constitutional amendment, Senate Bill 10 must be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions and then receive a majority vote in a statewide referendum.

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