KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Missouri Voters Reject Health Reform Law’s ‘Individual Mandate’ To Buy Insurance

The Kansas City Star: "Missouri law now contains a direct challenge to the federal health care law passed earlier this year. Primary voters approved Proposition C by a wide margin Tuesday. ... The measure is intended to invalidate in Missouri a key element of the federal health care law passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in March. That law requires individuals to purchase health insurance beginning in 2014."

"With Tuesday's victory, voters did two things, said state Sen. Jane Cunningham, a St. Louis County Republican. They protected their rights and signaled their displeasure with Congress and Obama." Critics "argue that the measure is more likely meaningless because courts have generally found that federal law overrules state law" (Noble, 8/4).

"Supporters of the measure said it would send a firm signal to Washington about how this state, often a bellwether in presidential elections, felt about such a law," The New York Times reports, adding that the referendum "was seen as a first look at efforts by conservatives to gather and rally their forces over the issue. In the end, though, the referendum seemed not to capture the general population's attention. Instead, Republican primary voters (who had the most competitive races on Tuesday) appeared to play a crucial role in the vote's fate" (Davey, 8/3).

The Wall Street Journal notes that 71 percent of voters supported the proposition. "Supporters of the state law said Congress was overreaching by requiring people to buy coverage, and they called the proposition a chance to stand up for states' rights. Opponents included the Missouri Hospital Association, which said that if the mandate isn't enforced some who can afford insurance will get a free ride and pass the costs on to those who are insured. The association spent about $400,000 on direct mail in connection with Proposition C, according to its filings" (Landers, 8/4).

The Associated Press: "Legislatures in Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana and Virginia have passed similar statutes without referring them to the ballot. … Missouri was the first state to challenge aspects of the federal law in a referendum. The intent of the federal requirement is to broaden the pool of healthy people covered by insurers, thus holding down premiums that otherwise would rise because of separate provisions prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to people with poor health or pre-existing conditions" (Lieb, 8/4).

Reuters: The American Legislative Exchange Council "helped draft the legislation in Missouri and in many other states. The Missouri measure states that no rule or law can compel an individual or business to participate in any healthcare system, and prohibits laws that level penalties against people who do not buy health insurance" (Gillam, 8/3).

Los Angeles Times: "In November, voters in Oklahoma and Arizona will also consider amendments to their state constitutions that would attempt to head off the insurance mandate. … Public opinion in general remains divided on the law, with several recent surveys suggesting that support may be inching up even as substantial numbers of Americans still favor repealing all or part of it" (Levey, 8/4).

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