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THCC & TN Justice Center: ‘Health Care Freedom Act’ Posturing, Not Pragmatic

Press Release from the Tennessee Health Care Campaign & Tennessee Justice Center, March 7, 2011:

The personal responsibility provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be decided by the Supreme Court of the United States, not state legislatures

Nashville, TN – On March 7th, the Tennessee House of Representatives will take a vote on the “Tennessee Health Care Freedom Act”, a bill that essentially codifies objection to a single provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Beth Uselton, Executive Director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, a non-partisan patient advocacy organization, says that this legislation is a distraction from the larger problems in our health care system. “This bill which seeks to reject aspects of the new health care law does nothing to help solve the problems it addresses. We still have hundreds of thousands of neighbors who lack affordable access to health care or have been denied coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will address both of these problems by banning pre-existing condition exclusions and providing tax credits to help people afford coverage. Attempting to pass state laws that reject provisions of the federal law are a distraction from the real problems Tennessee families are facing.”

Chris Coleman, an attorney with the Tennessee Justice Center, a non-profit public interest law firm explains that the state law would have no real effect on implementation of the Affordable Care Act. “Under the U.S. Constitution, laws passed by the U.S. Congress are the supreme law of the land, notwithstanding anything in the constitution or laws of any state. This means that the Affordable Care Act, much to the dismay of its critics, is the supreme law of the United States and preempts any contrary state law. If the legislature believes the ACA is unconstitutional, then it may try to convince the Attorney General to join one the several lawsuits challenging the ACA. What it cannot do is nullify a duly enacted federal law in Tennessee. As a legal matter, this is not even close.”

Uselton believes that the Affordable Care Act, not partisan politics, will ultimately prevail. “Those who seek to block implementation of the law or delay its benefits are playing politics with the lives and livelihoods of their own citizens. The new health care law is working for families across Tennessee who now have the peace of mind that their children can no longer be denied care or coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Patients with chronic conditions no longer have to worry that they will exhaust the coverage they’ve paid for or be dropped from their insurance because they got sick. In a new health care system where everyone participates and takes responsibility for their own health care, we can actually reduce costs, expand coverage and improve the quality of care. But we have to get past political posturing and start working together to implement real solutions to the problems facing Tennessee families.”

Reform v. Repeal; Mary & Co v. Mae & Co

A self-described consumer rights advocacy group held a press conference at the State Capitol Tuesday, during which its leaders called on state Sen. Mae Beavers to back off pushing one of her most cherished legislative initiatives.

Tennessee Citizen Action, a coalition of activists, progressive community organizers and union members, told reporters Tuesday they are trying to convince the Mt. Juliet Republican that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is really a very splendid, popular law that ought to be warmly embraced and even expanded, rather than unequivocally denounced as dangerous and unconstitutional.

TNCA Executive Director Mary Mancini said Beavers and other lawmakers rallying against national Democrats’ health care overhaul, like freshman GOP Tennessee Congressman Scott DesJarlais, are “wasting time on issues that we really can’t do anything about.”

“Right now that’s not going to help the people of Tennessee who are suffering in this bad economy, who are suffering from high unemployment and are finding it difficult to feed their families because food prices are so high,” said Mancini.

However, the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee chairwoman indicated Tuesday evening that Mancini is the one “wasting time” with her attempts to convince her, Beavers, to betray core conservative constituencies and renege on key campaign promises.

“I’m running with the bill no matter what,” assured Beavers. “(Mancini) can still have national health care if she wants it.”

Beavers said her Tennessee Health Freedom Act does nothing to prohibit anyone from enrolling in government-run or private health insurance programs if they choose; it only seeks to insulate citizens against retribution from the federal government if they choose not to.

Beavers added that, in her view, supporters of the federal health care legislation passed last year  — and, in turn, present-day opponents of the effort to repeal ObamaCare — “don’t know what they’re talking about.”

“They think it’s going to be free health care for everybody. Nothing is free. Somebody’s going to have to pay for it,” said Beavers.

In a press release issued last week, Beavers said “the health care law passed by Congress last year is ‘big brother’ at his worst.”

U.S. Rep. DesJarlais, a physician from Jasper, has shown no recent signs of abandoning his promise to fight the Affordable Care Act either. Earlier this week he told WPLN radio that “people didn’t want government run health care in the nineties; they didn’t want it now.”

“So the bill needs to be repealed and then we need to go about finding common-sense reform in health care and in my opinion not necessarily replace it with a new bill,” he said.

Mancini says she understands TNCA faces an uphill battle in changing GOP minds. Nevertheless, they’re charging upward and onward, she said.

“Instead of using this as a political football, (Republicans) need to start listening to the people of Tennessee, to their constituents,” Mancini said. “Talking about repeal gets everybody fired up. It’s a big, sexy issue and it gets people talking about the repeal of this health care bill, Mae Beavers’ bill to do away with the mandate. Again, that’s not something we can do. That’s going to be decided in a higher court.”

Tennessee Health Freedom Act Returns

Press release from the Senate GOP Caucus, Jan. 13, 2011:

Senator Mae Beavers and Representative Weaver to file “Health Freedom Act” protecting patient’s right to make their own health care choices

(NASHVILLE, TN), January 13, 2010 – State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) and Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) announced today they will file legislation to protect the freedom of Tennessee patients to make their own health care choices, regardless of the federal action taken in Washington last year. The bill is similar to legislation Beavers passed in the Senate last year. That legislation, however, was not approved in the House of Representatives.

“The health care law passed by Congress last year is ‘big brother’ at his worst,” said Senator Beavers. “The citizens of Tennessee believe they should be able to choose whether or not they want to participate in a federal health care plan. That is what this bill seeks to accomplish.”

The Tennessee Health Freedom Act, does not seek to “nullify” any federal law, as it would still allow individuals the option to participate in a federal program. However, it acknowledges the right of Tennesseans to refuse to participate in a government-run health insurance program.

“The Tennessee Health Freedom Act, would protect a citizen’s right to participate, or not participate, in any healthcare system, and would prohibit the federal government from imposing fines or penalties on that person’s decision,” said Rep. Weaver. “It seeks a remedy to fight back against the overreach of federal power on the private lives of our citizens.”

Financial experts predict that the federal healthcare plan will consume any anticipated growth in Tennessee’s revenues once the economy recovers, crippling the state’s ability to make future improvements in critical needs like education, job investment and public safety. The federal health care law will also penalize citizens beginning in 2014 if they do not buy insurance.

“We are talking about stiff penalties that will escalate to 2.5 percent of a citizen’s taxable income by 2016 if they do not purchase health care insurance,” added Beavers. “This will put a heavy burden on citizens who are already struggling to make ends meet. I am very hopeful this legislation will pass our General Assembly this session.”

Original ‘Health Freedom Act’ Champion Endorses Beavers

Press Release from Sen. Mae Beavers for Senate; June 16, 2010:

MT. JULIET, TN – Senator Mae Beavers is proud today to receive the endorsement of one of the country’s state sovereignty champions, Representative Jim Clark of Idaho. Representative Clark is the current Idaho House of Representatives Judiciary Chairman, as well as being Idaho’s state chairman to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

“I am proud today to announce my endorsement of a lady with strong convictions and who has worked tirelessly to combat an unprecedented over-reaching of the federal government throughout the years,” said Representative Clark. “Senator Beavers sponsored and passed the Firearms Freedom Act last year, and this year sponsored and passed the Tennessee Health Freedom Act twice in the State Senate. The state of Tennessee and the people of Senator Beavers’ district are lucky to have someone with such steadfast and consistently conservative principles and credentials.”

Representative Clark is the original author of the Idaho Health Freedom Act – joining with Virginia and Arizona as being one of the three states with statutorily-enacted laws directly challenging the constitutionality of President Obama’s national healthcare legislation. Clark worked with Senator Beavers in drafting of the Tennessee Health Freedom Act, acknowledging that language offered by ALEC’s version of the bill was inadequate and did nothing but issue a statement of intention regarding what the state legislature can and cannot do.

“The ALEC version of the Healthcare Freedom Act was similar to a resolution,” said Representative Clark. “I decided to use language in my legislation that made the law in Idaho a direct confrontation with the unconstitutional federal healthcare bill. We also put into law a remedy to such an unprecedented violation of our rights in that our Attorney General would protect the state of Idaho from these federal fines and unfunded mandates. I applaud Senator Beavers for passing this bill in the Tennessee Senate, and I wish the Tennessee House of Representatives would have been able to pass this legislation and stand up to the federal government as well.”

Representative Clark graduated from Tampa University in Florida in 1973. He received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army, and later served his country proudly for twenty years stationed in Germany, South America, Vietnam, and throughout the United States. Clark also has a Master of Science degree in International Relations from Troy State University in Alabama and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Idaho. Clark has served in the Idaho House of Representatives since 1996.