KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Florida Judge Blocks Proposed State Constitutional Amendment On Federal Health Law

Health News Florida: "A Leon County circuit judge today blocked a proposed [state] constitutional amendment that targets the federal health-reform law, saying Florida Republican lawmakers included wording in the proposal that would mislead voters. Judge James O. Shelfer said the proposal --- dubbed by lawmakers as the 'Health Care Freedom' amendment --- should not go on the November ballot. He described wording in a ballot summary as 'manifestly misleading.' The amendment, which would require voter approval to take effect, would try to prevent Floridians from being forced by law to 'participate in any health-care system.' It is an attempt to allow people to opt out of a new federal requirement that they eventually buy health insurance or face financial penalties. The state appears virtually certain to appeal Shelfer's ruling" (Saunders, 7/29).

The [Fort Myers] News-Press: "Circuit Judge James Shelfer on Thursday ruled in favor of the plaintiffs - two voters from Palm Beach County, one from Orange County and another from Pinellas - who filed suit against the state May 20. The four women alleged the title and summary of Amendment 9 were likely to confuse voters. … They also said the summary language included issues not addressed in the bill, including that the amendment 'will ensure access to health care services without waiting lists,' and 'protect the doctor-patient relationship' as well as 'guard against mandates that don't work.' Shelfer ruled that the amendment's ballot language could make voters think they would never have to wait in a doctor's office if it passed" (Harpster, 7/30).

The Miami Herald: "Critics and even one of its proponents acknowledged at the time that the amendment likely would not affect the national law because U.S. Constitution also contains a 'Supremacy Clause' that largely allows federal laws to trump state statutes. But it could have prohibited Florida from enacting a Massachusetts-style healthcare system" (Logan, 7/30). 

The Associated Press: "Attorney General Bill McCollum, who is also suing the federal government to block Obama's federal plan, was responsible for keeping the state health care amendment on the ballot" (7/29). 

Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that the amendment concerning health insurance mandates was one of "nine constitutional amendments [that] were approved for the November ballot. But six face lawsuits, including three that have been tossed from the ballot" (Kennedy, 7/30).

Meanwhile, and in a separate story, The Associated Press reports: "Missouri on Tuesday will become the first state to the test the popularity of President Barack Obama's top policy accomplishment with a statewide ballot proposal attempting to reject its core mandate that most Americans have health insurance. The legal effect of Missouri's measure is questionable, because federal laws generally supersede those in states. But its expected passage could send an ominous political message to Democrats seeking to hang on to their congressional majority in this year's midterm elections. The Missouri measure, shepherded to the ballot by Republican state lawmakers, is a glaring example of the twisting, troubled politics surrounding the health overhaul."

"In the swing state of Missouri, where Obama narrowly lost to Republican Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential elections, the federal health care law appears particularly unpopular. Sixty-one percent of respondents to a Mason-Dixon poll conducted this month for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and TV station KMOV said they opposed the federal health care law" (Lieb, 7/29).

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