The Orlando Sentinel prints JMI Policy Director Bob Sanchez’s opinion editorial “Amend Fla. Constitution to send D.C. a clear message”.Text of Editorial
Even before President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, legislators around the country were looking for ways to protect their states from what they saw as the law’s unconstitutional provisions.In Florida, the result was the Health Care Freedom Act. It created Amendment 1, which provides that nobody may be forced to buy health insurance — or be fined if they don’t or if they pay directly instead of through a third party such as an insurer.Critics will argue that this is now a meaningless exercise because, in their view, federal law trumps state law and, anyway, the Supreme Court decision upholding most of the ACA has rendered the issue moot.Not necessarily. For one thing, lawsuits continue. As Ave Maria University President Jim Towey explains in an article in The James Madison Institute’s fall Journal, religious liberty issues remain unresolved.Ave Maria is part of an interdenominational coalition of faith-based institutions that hope the Supreme Court will hear their case. They’ll ask whether the health insurance they’re required to provide their employees must include coverage for contraceptives and abortion-inducing medications — both contrary to their religious beliefs.For these institutions, refusing to provide the health insurance coverage mandated by the ACA entails paying a penalty that Chief Justice John Roberts tried to legitimize by dubbing a “tax.”Yet not even that bit of sophistry could provide a fig leaf to cover the ACA’s naked grab for federal power over health care, which already accounts for more than one-sixth of the nation’s economy.So litigation will continue. Meanwhile, whether or not June’s Supreme Court ruling has rendered Amendment 1 null and void, its presence on the November ballot at least gives Floridians a chance to weigh in.Sure, there have been dueling public opinion polls on “Obamacare.” However, Amendment 1, sharing the ballot with a presidential election, gives Floridians a chance to vote in a far more inclusive referendum on this law.How voters lean may depend, in part, on their personal situation — insured or uninsured, employee or employer, doctor or patient. But it also may depend on how much they know about this law.Delving into this huge law’s devilish details isn’t easy. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously advised the House when deliberations — and arm-twisting — were still underway, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”Even now, two years later, many voters haven’t a clue. To some, it may well sound like yet another welcome freebie. Fortunately, what’s actually in the law is coming to light as federal bureaucrats roll out regulations to implement it — a process underreported by the media.Therefore, if voters really want to know what’s in the ACA in order to decide how to vote on Amendment 1, they should ask some of the folks who’ve already learned how it’ll adversely impact them.For instance, they could check with physicians who now say they’ll retire early. Or ask business owners who are holding off on hiring lest they be saddled with unsustainable costs. Or ask local officials seeking a way to cope with the law’s costly mandates.As the ACA’s ripple effects spread, its destructive impact will become more apparent. Whether or not Amendment 1 ultimately can protectFloridafrom the damage, the vote gives Floridians a chance to sendWashingtona loud and clear message: Repeal this bad law!Better still, if the ACA were indeed repealed, Amendment 1’s provisions — once they’re ensconced in the state constitution — could safeguard against this kind of blatant assault on health care freedom for years to come.