In a surprisingly one-sided contest, Missouri became the first state to tabulate votes on a referendum responding to President Obama’s health care law.
Proposition C, introduced by State Senator Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield), was written with the stated purpose to “deny the government authority to penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance.” It passed overwhelmingly in August by a margin of 71 to 29 percent.
Christie Herrera, director of the Health and Human Services Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council in Washington, D.C., said the percentages were notable.
“I am not surprised that Prop C passed,” Herrera said. “I am surprised, though, at its margin of victory. It will be hard for the Left to explain away the fact that 70% of voters in an election want to repeal the centerpiece of President Obama’s health reform agenda.”
Herrera says the outcome indicates broad bipartisan opposition to Obama’s law.
“The numbers behind Prop C’s passage show that opposition to federal health reform is broad and bipartisan,” Herrera said. “100,000 Missouri voters pulled the lever for Prop C, but did not vote in the top-ticket race, a Republican Senate primary. Nearly 50,000 voters showed up to the polls and didn’t vote for anything other than Prop C, and nearly 44,000 Democrats statewide voted for the measure.”
Dave Roland at the Show-Me Institute was also surprised by the numbers.
“I am somewhat surprised by how overwhelmingly it passed and the bipartisan nature of support for the proposition,” Roland said. “The number of votes in favor of health care freedom far exceeded the total number of Republican, Libertarian, and Constitution Party ballots cast, so it is statistically beyond question that a significant percentage of Democrat voters rejected the idea that Congress should force individual citizens to purchase something they may not want.
“This is even more surprising because primary elections usually draw those voters least likely to oppose ideas championed by their party’s leaders,” he added.
Show-Me State Response
Roland says politicians will ignore this vote “at their peril.”
“Missouri voters are proud to have been the first in the nation to use the ballot box to tell the folks in Washington that they’ve overstepped their bounds,” Roland said. “Opinion polls can be slanted and their results can be spun in a kinds of directions, but there is something concrete about the voters themselves casting ballots on a question put before them.”
A Voter’s View
Mike Cheles, an independent consultant and resident of Missouri, explained his rationale behind voting in favor of Proposition C.
“I think the whole Obamacare initiative missed the mark completely,” Cheles said. “The unit cost of health care has been and continues increasing at a rate of 3-4 times the rate of inflation. That is the most important issue of all because if you fast forward 10-20 years and combine the number of baby boomers with increasing care needs, and add the compounded cost increases above the rate of inflation, the costs become unsustainable.”
Cheles maintains Obama’s law does not solve the real problems of cost.
“Obama’s plan does not address this, it only looks for more revenue and shifts it to the lower classes. This trades off relative stability for the next 5-7 years, albeit at much higher tax rates, for a certain catastrophe 10-15 years out,” Cheles said. “It is my belief that throwing more money into health care will increase demand which in turn will lead to higher prices.”
Cheles says he does not think the individual mandate solves the problems of health care in the United States.
“I agree it makes sense to add more healthy people to the ranks of the insured as this is the foundation any insurance model is built on,” Cheles said. “However, if the cost drivers are not fixed all this extra money coming into the system will actually drive the unit costs up much like increased government expenditures on education fuel higher costs at our universities.”
Symbolic Vote or Legal Precedent?
Herrera maintains that Proposition C will open more paths for attack against Obama’s law and particularly the individual mandate contained within it.
“Proposition C will provide Missouri with additional avenues of litigation if the current cases against the individual mandate are thrown out of court,” Herrera said. “The measure will allow Missouri to launch future, 10th-Amendment-based legal challenges against the individual mandate, and it can empower the attorney general to take up the case on behalf of individuals harmed by the mandate.”
Roland, on the other hand, isn’t so sure.
“While there are some legal scholars who believe that statutes such as the one created by Proposition C can be used to block the implementation of a federal law, I am not among their number,” Roland said.
Roland says Missouri’s rejection of the individual health insurance mandate will carry far more weight as a symbolic political statement than it will as a legal tool to protect citizens.
“Since Missourians clearly would like to have substantive legal protections, the General Assembly ought to let us vote on a constitutional amendment that would recognize a fundamental individual right to health care freedom,” Roland said.
Sarah McIntosh, Esq. is a constitutional scholar writing from Lawrence, Kansas ([email protected]).