The state House joined the Senate Monday in adopting Tea Party-backed legislation purporting to give Tennesseans the right to ignore the national health care reform law’s mandate to buy insurance coverage.
The vote was 70-27, and the bill went to the governor for his signature. It will have no practical effect since federal law preempts state law under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.
Democrats offered amendments aimed at putting the state on record as supporting various popular elements of the national health care law, including provisions barring insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and from capping lifetime benefits. Republicans easily defeated each amendment.
“This bill is simply about liberty and freedom of choice, whether you want government health care or whether you do not,” said Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, the bill’s sponsor. “Overwhelmingly, Tennesseans do not want the government telling them their business in health care.”
Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, said buying insurance is a civic duty and the insurance mandate reduces the burden that the uninsured place on the insured and on taxpayers.
“In essence what we’re talking about here is somebody refusing to pay their costs,” Armstrong said. “We call those people deadbeats.”
The House and Senate each passed a version of the legislation last session. They couldn’t reconcile the differences so neither bill became law.
That was mainly because of political squabbling between the two champions — Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and then-Rep. Susan Lynn, a Republican who ran against Beavers in last year’s elections and lost.