Voters Split on Ballot Measures
to Reject Federal Health Care Reform
By Debra Miller, CSG Director of Health Policy
Voters in Arizona and Oklahoma had the chance—and took it—to reject one of the main provisions of the federal health reform bill, requiring everyone to purchase health insurance or face a tax penalty beginning in 2014. The vote was not close in either state—55 percent of voters in Arizona rejected the individual mandate to purchase health insurance and a whopping 64 percent in Oklahoma did the same.
But in Colorado, the voters defeated a similar provision by a 6 percent margin.
Tuesday’s split vote is consistent with national polling that shows Americans are against the federal health reform bill and favor repeal. However, monthly tracking by the Kaiser Family Foundation also shows that majorities support certain provisions of the reform, including closing the “donut hole” for seniors for coverage of prescription drug costs, allowing families to maintain coverage for dependents up to age 26 and prohibitions against pre-existing conditions, annual and lifetime limits.
Most analysts don’t believe measures such as these would invalidate requirements of the federal health care reform law Congress passed in March. In addition to these ballot measures, Missouri voters approved a similar measure in August, and lawmakers in Georgia, Virginia, Louisiana and Idaho passed similar laws earlier this year.
The impact of these ballot measures will be on the political process that will play out in Congress. The new Republican majority in the U.S. House has pledged to repeal the bill or at least prevent its full implementation. Proponents of repeal will likely cite the successful ballot measures in Arizona, Oklahoma and Missouri in the debates to come.