On Friday, Gov. Bill Haslam signed the Tennessee Health Care Freedom Act (SB0079), making health care freedom the law of the land in Tennessee. The Tennessee Health Care Freedom Act is a direct response to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by Congress last year.
While SB0079 does not seek to nullify the federal law in its entirety, the goal of the new law is to ensure that Tennesseans are free to choose whether to participate in the federal plan, choose another plan, or not participate in any plan at all.
The Tennessee Health Care Freedom Act states:
It is declared that the public policy of this state, consistent with our constitutionally recognized and inalienable right of liberty, is that every person within this state is and shall be free to choose or to decline to choose any mode of securing health care services without penalty or threat of penalty.
It is declared that the public policy of this state, consistent with our constitutionally recognized and inalienable right of liberty, is that every person within this state has the right to purchase health insurance or to refuse to purchase health insurance. The government may not interfere with a citizen’s right to purchase health insurance or with a citizen’s right to refuse to purchase health insurance. The government may not enact a law that would restrict these rights or that would impose a form of punishment for exercising either of these rights. Any law to the contrary shall be void ab initio.
Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet sponsored the bill. It was approved 21-10 by the Senate and 70-27 in the House.
“Tennesseans do not want the government running their health care,” Beavers said.
Both the Tennessee House and Senate passed similar legislation in 2010, but cold not reconcile the two bills. The new law omits the main sticking point, a provision requiring the Tennessee attorney general to file suit against the federal health care act.