Ballot Campaign To Repeal Insurance Mandate Ends In Mass.

This story is part of a reporting partnership that includs WBUR and Kaiser Health News.

If Massachusetts residents chafe at the requirement that they have health insurance, they’ll have to endure it longer. They won’t have a chance to vote against it — not in the next election, anyway.

Backers of a ballot measure to repeal the state’s insurance mandate sent out an email last week saying they had failed to gather the needed signatures. (Points to policy-types-turned-crack-reporters Brian Rosman of Health Care for All and John McDonough of Harvard for reporting that development here and here.)

The ballot initiative’s organizers say their bid to derail the individual mandate failed because supporters were torn.

One group, those involved with Massachusetts Citizens for Life, worried about dividing their efforts between two ballot questions next year, one that would allow assisted suicide and one that would repeal the insurance mandate. In the end, fighting the assisted suicide question won.

In addition, conservative backers “were very concerned that this would make Mitt Romney look bad, and as they support him in the primaries they didn’t want to sign on to this, or donate to it or work for it” says Bridget Fay with Massachusetts Against the Individual Mandate.

Most of the 45,000 people who signed the repeal petition did so because they’re frustrated with the national health care law, says Fay, and wanted to make that point. But some, including Fay, object to the mandate and penalty in Massachusetts. Fay has insurance that does not meet the state’s minimum insurance standard so she pays an annual fine. “It’s ridiculous,” she says, “to pay a penalty for having insurance just because it isn’t good enough.”

Organizers of the ballot question are working with legislators on a bill that would get rid of the insurance mandate. They hope to file the legislation next year.

Health Care for All’s Brian Rosman says on the groups’ blog, “[I]t’s telling that despite the huge uproar against the mandate in national politics, not a single bill has been introduced in the Massachusetts legislature to repeal the mandate or the health reform law.” Rosman says polls show the law still has strong support.