Consumer-Directed Health Care Plan Falls Short in Arizona

Published February 1, 2009

After a lengthy post-election ballot-counting process, the Arizona Secretary of State’s office announced Proposition 101, a groundbreaking initiative proponents say would have enshrined consumer-directed health care into the state’s constitution by preventing government from forcing citizens to enroll in any particular health insurance plan, failed by the slimmest of margins.

The ballot measure read, “Passage of this proposition would result in an amendment to the Arizona Constitution stating that no law shall be passed that restricts a person’s freedom of choice of private health care systems or private plans, and that no one shall be penalized for opting not to participate in any particular health care system, plan, or coverage.”

The final tally was 1,048,512 votes for Prop 101, and 1,057,199 against—a margin of 8,687 votes, or 0.4 percentage points.

Shot Across the Bow

Experts say Prop 101’s minuscule margin of defeat should send a clear message to legislators considering imposing government-based health care reform on their constituents.

“Politicians need to take note,” said Greg Scandlen, director of Consumers for Health Care Choices at The Heartland Institute. “The people of Arizona have sent a clear warning that they will take only so much high-handed treatment when it comes to health care.

“Whether being forced into a program they have not chosen or being taxed mercilessly for the failed dreams of cynical politicians, voters are reaching the end of their patience,” Scandlen continued.

“It is unfortunate that this basic, fundamental right is under attack and that such an amendment is even necessary,” said Wisconsin state Rep. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa). “This defense of personal liberty should be presented to the voters in every state, and I applaud Arizonans for leading the way.”

‘Misinformation’ Caused Defeat

Supporters of Prop 101 said a vocal and well-funded campaign against the initiative, which included action by Gov. Janet Napolitano (D), helped seal the measure’s fate.

“When you have the governor and some big health care companies coming into a highly funded ‘no’ campaign, it was something we couldn’t overcome,” Tom Evans, a spokesman for the initiative-sponsoring group Medical Choices for Arizona, told reporters.

“The governor sent out fliers distorting the nature of Prop 101, claiming, among other things, that the measure would raise the cost of health care in the state by $2 billion and would cause employees to lose their employer-sponsored insurance,” explained Dr. Richard Dolinar, a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute and a key figure behind the initiative.

“The claim [that employees would be forced to forfeit their health insurance if Prop 101 passed] was utter nonsense,” said John R. Graham, director of health policy studies at the Pacific Research Institute.

“Prop 101’s plain language made clear that the state could neither forbid any Arizonan from buying private health insurance, nor could it compel him to do so,” Graham continued. “Thus, it would have protected Arizonans from either a government-monopoly system like Canada’s or mandatory private health insurance like in Massachusetts.”

“Although they were neither true nor valid,” said Dolinar, “these arguments proved to be very effective in the ultimate defeat of Prop 101.”

‘All Americans’ Need Choice

An opposition group called Stop 101 raised more than $600,000 for its campaign against the initiative, according to the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

“Opponents of Prop 101 don’t seem to be able to understand the benefits of freedom of choice in health care,” said Graham. “The only ‘reform’ they are willing to consider is so-called ‘single-payer’ health care.

“In Arizona, this took the shape of the Orwellian-named ‘Arizona Health Security Act’ [HB 2668], which would have driven every Arizonan into a government-monopoly system,” Graham continued.

“Imagine a ‘Home Security Act’ that outlawed private houses and compelled everyone into government-owned barracks,” Graham said. “Such a law would be unthinkable! The fact that it is not only thinkable but doable for health care should lead all Arizonans and all Americans to appreciate the need for a constitutional amendment like Prop 101.”

Joe Emanuel ([email protected]) writes from Georgia.

For more information …

Proposition 101 Election Results, Office of the Arizona Secretary of State:

HB 2668, Arizona Health Security Act: