GOP lawmaker wants to change FL Constitution; warns of Biden “taking control” of Floridians’ health care

Manny Diaz, Jr.
Miami-Dade Republican Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr. . Screenshot: Florida Channel

At a time when the Biden administration is pushing to expand and access health care for Americans, a GOP lawmaker in Florida is pushing for a Constitutional amendment to make sure constituents can keep their health care plans.

The amendment would require a supermajority vote before a so-called single-payer health care system could be enacted, according to State Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr., a Republican representing part of Miami-Dade County.

He’s chairman of the Senate’s Health Policy chairman and sponsor of the legislation, in the form of a joint resolution.

“In a single-payor health care system, only one entity bears the financial responsibility of health care – the government,” according to the bill analysis. That would potentially do away with private plans.

However, Joe Biden’s health care initiatives did not focus on a single-payor system during his campaign, instead focusing on controlling prescription drug prices, expanding insurance subsidies for the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare, and adding a government-run public option, according to Forbes.

Nevertheless, Diaz focused on the single-payor system in his resolution.

“This would be a dramatic change and it has been talked about on the national scene over the last couple of years,” said Diaz.

“I have received a lot of notes from constituents in wanting to keep their health care system as it is and not have it be one government system.”

His legislation would “provide that a single-payer health care system may not be enacted by the Legislature except through legislation approved by two-thirds of the membership of each House of the legislature and presented to the governor for approval.”

According to the bill analysis, the Amendment would be placed before Florida voters in the November 2022 election “or an earlier special election specifically authorized by law for that purpose.”

Diaz said the amendment is not “directed at the Medicaid system at all.” (The Medicaid program, which has not expanded during the DeSantis and prior administrations, provides health services for the most vulnerable population – those living in poverty and disabled residents.)

Diaz also warned of the government “taking control” of Florida residents’ health care under President Biden, adding that “it would cost a lot of people their private plans.”

Biden has said he wants to make health insurance more affordable and expand on Obamacare, which has provided health insurance for millions of Americans, even as the COVID-19 pandemic was raging.

According to a CNN report, Biden had recently issued an executive order to reopen enrollment for Obamacare between February 15 and May 15 – granting Americans who missed the enrollment period access to affordable health insurance options.

Sadaf Knight, CEO of the non-profit Florida Policy Institute, opposes the proposal. “This resolution is a distraction from the real issue: that 800,000 Floridians with low income are uninsured,” Knight said in an email to the Florida Phoenix.

Knight continued:

“What lawmakers should be focused on is the fact that these Floridians do not have access to affordable, essential physical and behavioral health services because our state has one of the lowest Medicaid income eligibility thresholds in the nation. We encourage the Legislature to hold a hearing on how Medicaid expansion could save lives while also saving the state money and reducing costs for everyone.”

Other groups in opposition at the committee meeting included Barbara DeVane of Florida NOW, who didn’t appear before the committee to give public testimony.

Proponents of the joint resolution included Phillip Suderman, policy director of the Americans for Prosperity-Florida, a grassroots advocacy group.

“Health care is a vital industry, not just in terms of economics, but for the obvious reason that is what keeps Floridians healthy and well,” Suderman said.

“Drastic changes to vital systems, especially changes that involve a top-down, heavy handed, governmental approach, should come only after the appropriate checks and balances are made. The greater the possible shift, the greater the scrutiny.”

The Health Policy committee voted 6-3 to in support of the joint resolution  (SJR 340), but it will need to go through other committees and the full House and Senate.

Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.