KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Missourians Vote Today On Health Reform Ballot Initiative

Missouri voters Tuesday are weighing in on a ballot measure that would ban laws from requiring people to have insurance in a vote that is sure to send a political message but may not have much legal impact, The Associated Press/Columbia Missourian reports. "If it passes as expected, the Missouri measure could send a troublesome signal from a historical swing-state about the most high-profile accomplishment of Obama and the Democratic-led Congress." If it fails, Republicans will get burnt on an issue they have sought to pull into mid-term elections. Still, because federal laws usually supersede state laws, the legal significance is "doubtful" (8/3).

The Christian Science Monitor: "The vote presents what some political analysts say is the first moment when voters in any state will take what amounts to referendum on Mr. Obama's approach to health-care reform." But, the ballot measure won't produce a "scientific sampling of public opinion," because it falls on the day of the mid-term primaries when voter turnout is usually low (Trumbull, 8/2).

Politico Pulse points out that one reason the measure is likely to pass is that Republican voter turnout is expected to be higher. "[T]he Republican primary is far more competitive than the Democratic races on the ballot" (Haberkorn and Kliff, 8/3).

Time: While viewed as a referendum on the broader law, the ballot measure addresses only once specific issue. "Can the government require that citizens buy health insurance? Mandatory insurance is a key element of the health care reforms passed by congressional Democrats and signed by Obama this year. … Missouri's referendum rejects that mandate by asking voters whether state laws should be amended to forbid penalties for failing to have health insurance" (Ball, 8/3).

The Hill: The Missouri ballot referendum will be the first popular vote on the health overhaul. But - if the measure passes - Missouri will not be the first state to formally reject the overhaul. "Five other states - Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, and Virginia - have already enacted such legislation. The governors of Florida and Oklahoma have vetoed similar legislation." Meanwhile, "two states - Arizona and Oklahoma - have similar constitutional amendments on their November ballots" (Pecquet, 8/2).

KRCG (Jefferson City, Mo.) breaks down for voters what they will be communicating with their decisions. "A 'yes' vote will amend Missouri law so the state can overrule the federal government and their authority to penalize you for not buying health insurance. A 'no' vote will allow the federal government to make you buy private health insurance" (Daniel Winn, 8/2).

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