Health care bill awaits Pa. Senate

Amendment would prohibit requirement to buy insurance
March 8, 2012 12:00 am

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HARRISBURG -- Another effort is under way in the state Capitol to prevent Pennsylvanians from being subject to the federal health care law and its requirement that all residents purchase health insurance.

A measure from Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, would amend the state Constitution to prohibit anyone from being mandated to obtain health coverage or being fined for not doing so.

The proposal gained initial approval, along party lines, from a Senate committee on Wednesday. It now awaits a vote by the full Senate.

A constitutional amendment must be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions and then must pass a statewide referendum vote.

State lawmakers are in the second year of the current session, which means that if the bill is approved this year and again after the new session begins in January, it could be on the ballot as early as May 2013.

Mr. Scarnati acknowledged that it is likely the U.S. Supreme Court, scheduled to hear arguments on challenges to the health care law later this month, will rule on the federal statute's constitutionality before the amendment could gain final approval.

But he said his bill would give lawmakers and state residents a chance to express their views on the insurance requirement.

"I'm not doing this to debate Obamacare; that's not really the issue," he told reporters after the committee 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."

First Published 2012-03-07 23:02:14

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