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Anti-ObamaCare amendment heads to ballot

The Florida Senate 26-11 passed the so-called Health Care Freedom Act.

The measure, which needs to be approved by 60 percent of voters in November, was drafted to stop the federal health reform’s so-called “individual mandate” that requires citizens to purchase health insurance. But, because federal law would trump state law, the constitutional amendment probably won’t affect ObamaCare. Instead, if approved, the amendment will block future legislatures from passing a state law requiring people to buy private insurance, similar to what Massachusetts did under Republican Gov. Mitt Romney's RomneyCare plan.

Bill sponsor Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, said the measure was designed to “preserve freedom” and prevent the government from forcing people to buy a private product they might not want.

“This debate is not about denying health care to anyone,” Baker said. “At the end of the day….. healthcare freedom belongs in our Constitution.”

But Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach,  said the amendment was unclear, a waste of time and a missed opportunity to improve access to health insurance in a state where up to 4 million people are uninsured.

“The tragedy is, Gelber said. “We are spending all our time today, and in this Legislature, trying to figure how to block healthcare to our citizens.”

Gelber said Gov. Charlie Crist and the Legislature’s attempt two years ago to improve health-insurance access through the Cover Florida plan, which offers stripped down benefit packages for a stripped down price, is only growing by about 25 new enrollees a month.

“If you do the math, in about 500 years, Cover Florida will cover Florida,” Gelber said.

Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, took exception with Gelber’s statement that the Legislature isn’t doing enough to provide health insurance. She pointed out the state provides a wide array of benefits, from nursing homes to hospital care to help for kids with cleft palette.

Unmentioned by Storms, most of the state's health services are underwritten and pumped up by the federal government and Obama's stimulus plan.