by Lisa Codispoti, Senior Counsel,
National Women's Law Center
If you read some of the press accounts of Tuesday's primary election in Missouri, you might think actually that voters approved a referendum on the ballot to reject health reform, for example, the New York Times headline "Missouri Voters Reject Health Law". But that would be wrong. Missouri primary voters did approve a ballot measure concerning one singular aspect from the health reform law. Let's clarify a few things.
First, the ballot measure was not about the health reform law. The MO measure purports to target one specific piece of the new law—the so-called individual mandate, which is the requirement effective in 2014 that people—unless exempt—take personal responsibility and have health insurance so that we all have lower premium costs. The new health law is so much more than that. So the referendum had nothing to do with any of the law's important requirements, such as the requirement that insurance companies provide free preventative care, or stop charging women higher premiums just because they're women, or dropping people’s coverage when they get sick, or rejecting people due to pre-existing conditions.
Second, a word about turnout and who voted. The referendum occurred during a primary race in Missouri—which was heavily skewed toward Republican races; they outnumbered Democratic primaries races by almost a third. Accordingly, turnout was expected to heavily skew Republican. Given that those who showed up on Tuesday were not representative of the voting public in Missouri, let alone the rest of the country, the results in Missouri have little if any predictive weight about how the few other ballot measures like this might go.
Finally, the ballot measure was incredibly confusing—with the exact text of the measure as follows:
Shall the Missouri Statutes be amended to:
- Deny the government authority to penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance or infringe upon the right to offer or accept direct payment for lawful healthcare services?
- Modify laws regarding the liquidation of certain domestic insurance companies?
If you had to vote on this, would you have known what a yes or no vote meant?
Let's be clear. Passage of Referendum C in Missouri has little practical effect—the health reform law is very much alive. The courts will ultimately decide about the personal responsibility requirement that the Missouri ballot measure addressed. In the mean time, key provisions of the law we all are counting on continue...