Pa. Senate panel moves bill to void federal health care law

March 7, 2012 11:34 am

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HARRISBURG -- A state Senate panel approved a proposal this morning that would make the federal health care law and its requirement that all residents purchase health insurance illegal in Pennsylvania.

That measure, introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, would amend the state Constitution to prohibit anyone from being mandated to obtain health coverage or fined for not doing so. A constitutional amendment must be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions, and then must pass a statewide referendum vote.

With this being the second year of the current session, the bill could be approved this year and early next year, when the new session begins, and conceivably could be on the ballot in May 2013.

Mr. Scarnati acknowledged that the U.S. Supreme Court likely will rule on the federal law's constitutionality before the proposed state amendment could gain final approval. But he said the legislative action would give lawmakers and state residents a chance to express their view on the insurance requirement.

"I'm not doing this to debate Obamacare, that's not really the issue," he told reporters after the meeting. "What this is really about is giving Pennsylvanians the ability to go to the polls and vote how they feel about being mandated by the federal government on this issue. I think that will be a very clear, clear message to the administration, to Congress and to the courts."

Democratic Sen. Mike Stack of Philadelphia opposed the proposal, saying that legislators should instead be focusing on how to increase access to affordable health insurance.

The measure, approved on a party-lines vote, now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

Harrisburg Bureau Chief Laura Olson: lolson@post-gazette.com or 717-787-4254.
First Published 2012-03-07 10:31:04

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