Voters in several states say 'no' to health insurance mandate

Maryalene LaPonsie | November 3, 2010

Republicans swept into the majority of the U.S. Congress on November 2, 2010, with many candidates campaigning against the federal health reform legislation. However, while all eyes were on the Congressional races, another battle against the scheduled health insurance mandate was being waged. In Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado, voters had the option of voting for referendums that rejected the health reform requirement.

The health insurance mandate controversy

For conservative voters, nothing is more representative of government overreach than health reform. At best, it's a public intrusion into a private matter for them. At worst, it's an unconstitutional policy that demonstrates just how far current politicians have strayed from the ideals of our nation's founding fathers.

Although health reform includes a number of policy changes -- from free preventive services to the elimination of pre-existing condition exclusion periods -- it is the health insurance mandate that has garnered the most attention. In 2014, every man, woman and child in the nation must maintain health insurance or face fines. Conservatives argue that making health insurance a requirement of citizenship flies in the face of personal liberty and the United States' founding principles.

State referendums on health insurance

The health insurance mandate has resulted in a flurry of activity. Suits have been filed, speeches have been made and now voters have spoken. In the August primary election, Missouri voters passed a rejection of the health insurance mandate by a wide margin. Now, voters in Oklahoma and Arizona have done the same.

All three states relied on model legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Each state used a variation of the Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act formulated by the organization. ALEC asserts that the act protects the right of citizens to pay for health care directly. The amendment passed by a 2 to 1 margin in Oklahoma while 55 percent of voters in Arizona supported the proposal.

A separate referendum was held in Colorado. However, in the Rocky Mountain State, the ballot proposal was limited to prohibiting the state from enacting its own health insurance mandate. It did not specifically dispute the federal health reform provision. Voters there rejected the proposal by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent.

What do the referendums mean to you?

In a word: nothing.

That's right. Despite all the rhetoric, the referendums are not expected to result in changes to medical health insurance coverage in Oklahoma, Arizona, Missouri or elsewhere. While voters may have amended their state constitutions, state law doesn't trump federal law.

As it stands today, large employers will still have to provide group insurance to their employees in 2014, and you will still have to find private health insurance if you don't get it through your boss. Of course, with the Republican takeover of the U.S. Congress, tomorrow might bring another change to federal law and the health insurance landscape.

Stay tuned…

Tags : health insurance mandate, health reform, elections 2010

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