Friday, December 15, 2017
Politics

Florida's Amendment 1: Testing public support for 'Obamacare'

TALLAHASSEE — Supporters and opponents of Amendment 1 say it could have relatively no impact on Floridians as long as the leadership in Washington remains the same. Even if the state Constitution were changed to exempt Floridians from being required to purchase health insurance, federal law would hold priority, and the individual mandate is the law of the land.

Amendment 1 is really about sending a message, said Robert Sanchez, director of policy at the James Madison Institute.

"At a time when turnout is high because this is a presidential election, for there to be a more representative referendum on the Affordable Care Act," he said. "And if people understand the amendment and bother to go down to that part of the ballot, then they would see they have a chance to voice their approval or disapproval of (the health care law)."

Progress Florida executive director Mark Ferrulo thinks the Republican-led Legislature was playing politics when it put Amendment 1 on the ballot.

"We believe it's just largely throwing a bone to the sort of tea-party wing which was so incensed over Obamacare," he said. "That, we believe, is a big motivation behind it. They likely saw putting Amendment 1 on the ballot as a way to help turn out an element of their base voters."

If voters approve Amendment 1, that could give Florida Gov. Rick Scott and legislators additional drive to continue to resist implementing certain provisions of the law, such as an expansion of the Medicaid program or creating a health exchange.

Some worry it will give Florida elected officials enough reason to wage a new court battle against the Affordable Care Act. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law earlier this year, ruling against a coalition of states led by Florida.

There are also hypothetical scenarios where Amendment 1 could have impact. For example, if the health care law is repealed or altered and the individual mandate goes away, Amendment 1 would prevent state lawmakers from requiring Floridians to purchase health insurance.

That will be determined by the election. Republican nominee Mitt Romney has pledged to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act if he becomes president.

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