The Tennessee Senate approved legislation on Wednesday by a vote of 26-1-5 "to protect the freedom of Tennessee patients to make their own health care choices, regardless of any future federal action."
The bill, called the Tennessee Health Freedom Act, is sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), Senator Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Diane Black (R-Gallatin), Senator Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City), Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson), Senator Mike Faulk (R-Church Hill) and Lt.
Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville).
“Never in our history has the U.S. government required its citizens as a condition of residency to purchase a particular product from a private company or government entity,” said Senator Beavers. “This act seeks to protect the rights of Tennesseans to choose what type and quantity of health insurance to purchase.”
Senator Beavers said the legislation, Senate Bill 3498, would protect a citizen’s right to participate, or not participate, in any health care system, and would prohibit the federal government from imposing fines or penalties on that person’s decision. She said it does not seek to “nullify” any federal law, as it would still allow individuals the option to participate in a federal program. However, the bill acknowledges the right of Tennesseans to refuse to participate in a government-run health insurance program. It also calls on the state’s Attorney General to take action in the defense or prosecution of rights protected under the legislation.
“The mandate to buy health insurance does not regulate the health care insurance markets -- it regulates the doing of nothing,” added Senator Beavers. “If Congress really had the power to regulate such an activity, there would be no limits to its power. They could mandate the purchase of anything, yet the Supreme Court recently made it clear it will strike down federal statutes based on such an unlimited assertion of power. It is not inconceivable if they can do this, they could mandate that each of us buy a Chevrolet every year so we can help pay off the loans that were made to that industry.”
Action on the bill will now move to the House of Representatives, where it is sponsored by Rep. Beth Harwell (R-Nashville).