Missouri Health Care Reform Foes Hope Ballot Initiative Will Start National Trend

The first real test of health care reform won’t take place before the Supreme Court, as some Republicans have promised. Instead, it will happen in the heartland, when Missouri voters take a stand on their Republican-written ballot measure dubbed the “Health Care Freedom Act.”

The actual question from the Aug. 3 Proposition C measure centers around the individual insurance mandate included in the sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health care system. If it passes, it would amend state statutes to deny the federal government the authority to penalize people for not buying health insurance. Boosters are campaigning on the fact that it’s the “first time” voters will get a chance to weigh in on health care reform passed this spring.

Repealing health care has become a central issue in the 2010 campaigns, and one we’ve followed closely at TPM. If this measure passes in the über-battleground state, critics with similar state ballot initiatives may feel emboldened this fall. Among those states with similar ballot initiatives are Arizona, Florida and Indiana — all of which also have high-profile Senate races.Partisans say that a yes vote will “protect us from those government mandates by expressly stating that the government may not ‘penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance or infringe upon the right to offer or accept direct payment for lawful healthcare services.'”

Republican state lawmakers who helped to approve the measure in the legislature have donated to the effort while Gov. Jay Nixon (D) opposed it.

“After months of saying NO to Washington, Missouri voters have something to say YES to,” boosters say. Health care supporters attempted to block the measure from the ballot, but lost in court last week.

The Secretary of State’s office estimated the ballot measure “will have no immediate costs or savings to state or local governmental entities.” But they added a cautionary note:

However, because of the uncertain interaction of the proposal with implementation of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, future costs to state governmental entities are unknown.

The proposition’s official spokesmen have partisan ties. GOP pollster and political consultant Patrick Tuohey is treasurer of Missourians for Health Care Freedom. He’s used his state politics journal, the Missouri Record, to champion the proposition.

This referendum is remarkable for two reasons: (1) it gives voters a direct opportunity to affect the health care debate and (2) it is the first such vote in the nation, driving the debate for the next three months until the general election.

While only Missourians can vote on this matter on August 3, this is in every way a national battle–and it is the next battle in the fight for individual rights. Whether you are in California, Florida, or some place in between, please consider riding to the sound of the guns and supporting us in our fight. A victory in the Show-Me State will show Washington that Americans value our liberty and will not easily surrender it.

Also pushing the ballot measure is Republican candidate Ed Martin in Missouri’s 3rd Congressional district. He’s challenging Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO), who voted for health care reform.