Wording of a health care measure that’s to appear on the Missouri ballot this fall is facing backlash from Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder and fellow Republicans.
The ballot measure, approved by lawmakers this past session, would prohibit the state from creating or operating a health insurance exchange, unless the legislature or voters gives it the ok. It also forbids the governor from creating one through executive order.
Health exchanges are online market places where individuals and small businesses will compare and shop for health plans, starting in 2014. The exchanges are a mainstay of the recently upheld federal health law, and states must now decide what kind of role they want to have in running one. They could oversee the exchange, partner with the federal government or have the federal government run it.
“Shall Missouri law be amended to deny individuals, families, and small businesses the ability to access affordable health care plans through a state-based health benefit exchange unless authorized by statute, initiative or referendum or through an exchange operated by the federal government as required by the federal health care act?
No direct costs or savings for state and local governmental entities are expected from this proposal. Indirect costs or savings related to enforcement actions, missed federal funding, avoided implementation costs, and other issues are unknown.”
Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, who’s running for reelection this fall, immediately voiced concerns with the choice of language.
“The use of the active verb ‘to deny’ individuals families and small businesses the ability to access affordable health care plans, that is loaded, biased language on its face,” Kinder told KCUR last week.
Earlier today, Kinder officially filed a legal challenge to the Secretary of State’s ballot language in Cole County Circuit Court. Also joining the suit are Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, House Speaker Steven Tilley and House Majority Leader Tim Jones.
“We’ve got to have an honest fair characterization of that on the ballot for the people to make an informed decision,” Kinder stated, after first announcing plans to contest the language.
This isn’t the first time Kinder has filed suit regarding a health care measure. Last year, he challenged the federal health law and its individual insurance mandate. The Supreme Court recently upheld the law. Kinder's lawsuit is awaiting a ruling in the 8th District, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Ryan Hobart, a spokesperson with Secretary Carnahan’s office, says he’s confident the ballot language will hold up in court.
“This office has always followed our legal obligation to provide Missourians with fair and sufficient summaries of ballot initiatives and ballot measures,” says Hobart. “And this summary for the health care issue is no different.”
Kinder says he plans to pay for the legal challenge through raising private funds.
Other republicans have also been quick to publicly oppose the ballot language, including Secretary of State candidate, Shane Schoeller.
Meanwhile, the Missouri Health Advocacy Alliance also opposes Carnahan’s ballot summary, but for different reasons. Andrea Routh, the consumer group’s director, said in a statement today that the language doesn’t go far enough.
"A major provision of the proposed ballot initiative allows anybody to sue the state and local governments – potentially at taxpayer expense – for carrying out a federal law. This could impose a devastating financial burden on our state when Missouri's budget is already suffering. The Secretary of State’s ballot language is regrettably silent on this provision…I think if people knew that this bill invited costly lawsuits, they would not support it.”
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