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Missouri voters say 'show me why I need medical insurance'

Maryalene LaPonsie | August 4, 2010

The rumblings have been heard across the nation for months. Tea Parties have mobilized while crowds flock to Sarah Palin's stern speeches about impending disaster. Meanwhile, medical insurance companies fret about their bottom line and health care advocates wring their hands over the prospect that four years is a long time for something to go wrong.

What is all the fuss about? Why, health insurance reform, of course!

Now, after months of discussion revolving around "will it or won't it" (create affordable health insurance, that is), the voters of Missouri have taken formal action against the federal medical insurance mandate. In a resounding message to Congress, Proposition C, which opposes the reforms, was supported by approximately three-fourths of Missouri voters.

The path to affordable health insurance

Skyrocketing health care costs and medical insurance premiums have long been an issue of increasing concern. Within this issue, government health care reform has been a holy grail - ever sought after, yet always elusive. Until now.

For decades, politicians discussed the possibility of creating a universal health care system, one in which the government provided medical coverage for all citizens. However, pesky questions hindered the passage of any meaningful reform measures. Questions such as: who will pay for this medical coverage, how will they pay for it (hint: it might come in the form of higher taxes) and should the federal government get itself tangled up in a system previously left to the free market?

The recently passed legislation sidesteps many of the pitfalls that tripped up earlier attempts at reform by taking the government largely out of the equation. Rather than offer low cost health insurance through the government, the new health act simply requires that all residents maintain their own health insurance by 2014.

The federal government envisions this medical insurance mandate will be largely filled by employers. The health reform requires that businesses with more than 50 employees offer health insurance as a work benefit. Americans who are self employed, unemployed or working for small businesses would be required to obtain their own health insurance. The government plans to subsidize premiums for many of those buying their own policies to ensure affordable health insurance will be within the reach of all families.

The Tea Party revolt and the Missouri vote

The health care reform -- dubbed 'Obamacare' by detractors -- was widely panned by individuals and groups on by sides of the debate. Some said the reform simply doesn't go far enough while others state that it is an example of government overreach at its finest.

Throughout the country, legions of conservative voters have mobilized around the Tea Party movement. Named after the historic Boston Tea Party, members of the movement say enough is enough. While not created specifically in response to health reform, the movement has focused much of its attention on the legislation, which it considers to be a prime example of government meddling in the affairs of its citizens.

With the Missouri August primary vote, Tea Party members can lay claim to the first voter-backed challenge to the medical insurance mandate. Although a handful of state attorneys general have filed lawsuits and some legislatures have introduced bills to opt out of the reform measures, Proposition C is the first time voters have had a chance to put in their two cents directly.

In theory, Missouri voters have amended their constitution to state that no person can be penalized for refusing to maintain medical insurance. In reality, state law can almost never trump federal law, and Proposition C will most certainly be challenged in the federal court system.

Ultimately, the medical insurance mandate will likely end up before the Supreme Court, which will have to decide whether the federal government can in fact require private citizens to maintain medical insurance. In the meantime, it can only be speculated whether the Missouri vote is the first volley in the war against health insurance or a small side note destined to fade in away in the annals of history.

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