When Ohioans vote in the November elections they’ll decide whether the state Constitution should prohibit any government or court from forcing people to buy health insurance. The initiative on the ballot, Issue 3, butts heads with the signature legislation of the Obama Administration known as the Affordable Care Act. It requires all Americans to have health insurance, starting in 2014. At the City Club Wednesday, supporters and opponents squared off. ideastream’s Michelle Kanu reports.
Supporters of Issue 3 argue that forcing people to purchase insurance violates their right to freedom. Chris Littleton spoke for that side. He’s co-founder of the Ohio Liberty Council and belongs to the Cincinnati Tea Party.
Littleton: “We’re saying you’re fundamentally restricting our liberty and property here and there was no due process."
Even though the language of Issue 3 doesn't specifically mention the Affordable Care Act, in essence, it would exempt Ohioans from the mandate that all Americans buy or have health insurance. Again, Christ Littleton.
Littleton: “We do not think that compulsion is necessary to accomplish a great many of the good health care reforms that have been proposed and debated.”
Opponents of Issue 3 beg to differ. They say the federal mandate that compels people to have insurance is key to making it affordable. Dale Butland argued for their side. He is communications director with Innovation Ohio, a liberal think tank. Butland says the amendment not only flies in the face of the new federal mandate, it could invalidate other state mandates.
Butland: “If no one can be compelled to participate in a health care system, how can a court order a parent to buy health insurance for his or her child? How can a college require students to have health insurance as a condition of enrollment?”
Littleton says that’s just not true.
Another point of disagreement is over whether this amendment would hold up in court.
As Butland put it, federal law trumps state law.
Butland:”This is a merely symbolic vote at best. It’s allowing people to make a personal statement about what they think about the ACA, the Affordable Care Act. However, it amends the Ohio constitution in ways that are going to be horribly damaging to these already existing laws and regulations.”
At one point during the debate, the moderator asked whether supporters or opponents of Issue 3 have any connection to another hot ballot item, issue 2. That’s the referendum on the state’s new law that restricts collective bargaining rights for public workers.
The Issue 3 supporter, Littleton, didn’t respond to that question. But Issue 3 opponent Butland did. He suggested that conservatives put it on the ballot as a way to drive their base to the polls.
Butland: “The Republican party thought well, this is a good way to drive conservative voters to the polls, and while they’re there, they might also vote against issue 2.”
On one point both City Club debaters agreed – that Issue 3, should it pass, won’t do anything to fix the nation’s broken healthcare system.
The greater challenge to the new federal health care law may come on another battleground than the ballot initiative. Ohio is among 26 states challenging the new federal law in federal court and federal judges have handed down mixed rulings on the law’s constitutionality. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule sometime next year.